Wenger probably has a bit of a Dilemma before the Capital One Cup visit to West Brom. On one hand, the Arsenal manager knows the need to give many of his key players a breather. But doing so will clearly compromise the chance they have of winning an away cup tie unless the opponents field an equally weakened side, which is unlikely. Maintaining Arsenal’s winning record away from home could prove very useful in keeping the momentum going. Confidence can be a fragile thing as we’ve seen all too often.
Fielding many of his regulars, on the other hand, would significantly enhance the prospects of progressing to the next round of the most meaningless trophy Arsenal contest in. While the rhythm of winning might stay alive for a while longer, the long term cost of straining players could be much worse.
He’s already said the team will be a mix of young and experienced players with more familiar names at the back. This is sensible on two counts. Firstly, Arsenal have more defensive players available and the depth is greater there. Secondly, having a strong defence can lead to a team not losing the game. From there to winning is a jump that can be made with a moment of quality from any individual or a small but decisive spell of pressure from the team.
I guess Fabianski, Jenkinson, Vermaelen, and Monreal pick themselves. Koscielny or Mertesacker could complete a fairly strong back five.
In front of them we might see Flamini and Arteta providing further experience and stability. The Frenchman won’t play continuously once the Spaniard is fully fit so starting him in this game doesn’t seem to be that big a risk. Furthermore, he hasn’t played as many minutes as the likes of Wilshere and Ramsey. Wenger’s technical leader, Mikel Arteta, could ease back into match fitness with this game. But he should only start if there is no risk of losing him to a recurrence of his injury or a fresh but related one.
Having these seven players will ensure that Arsenal won’t be overrun even if Steve Clarke picks his best line up. That will also give the attacking players a bit of a leeway and the inexperienced ones or those lacking in match sharpness could be risked.
Gnabry has already played in a Premier League game and should be another one of the guaranteed starters. Miyaichi has had a few substitute appearances and went on loan to a Premier League club so he could also be deemed ready for a start in such a game. They could take the right and left wing respectively.
That leaves Numbers 9 and 10, arguably the people likely to prove decisive. Bendtner seems like the option for the strikers role, even if it’s more by elimination than by right. Park is visible in the training pictures on the website but I have absolutely no idea what’s going on with him. If he’s fit he could partner Bendtner.
Özil could be a starter in the attacking midfield role considering the fact that he hasn’t played the two Champions League qualification games that other Gunners have and didn’t play constantly in Madrid’s opening games. This would also help his acclimatization process.
The other options for Wenger would be to have someone like Zelalem or Eisfeld in the starting line up with Özil on the bench. To me that would make the attack way too inexperienced.
This seems balanced enough,
Fabianski – Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Monreal – Arteta, Özil, Flamini – Gnabry, Bendtner, Miayichi.
I’d prefer a couple more experienced players on the bench but won’t be surprised if it’s entirely filled with youngsters.
In such a game it’s also impossible to anticipate the patterns of play. A lot will depend on the kind of side West Brom select.
On a general level, Arsenal’s best bet would be to keep things solid at the back as they’ve done in recent games and rely on the trickery of the youngsters and hope that they develop an understanding with the more senior players. All it takes is one goal to win or lose the tie.
Wenger has said that he believes in Bendtner’s individual qualities and it’s more a question of his attitude and fighting spirit. This could be a good chance for the Dane to show that he has what it takes. If nothing else, a committed display mirroring Giroud’s work rate would be acceptable. The rest will come in due course and might happen for him in this game too if luck goes his way.
I’m not sure I’ll get a chance to watch this game so there might not be a match report after this. Or I might merge a quick summary with the preview of the visit to Swansea at the weekend.Follow @goonerdesi