The EFL Cup Quarter-Finals are next up on the agenda for Arsenal, and with the trophy a mere three wins away, a strong team selection will be on the cards for the Gunners.
The importance of the tie is one reason, but the squad depth is another reason why Arsenal’s lineup will be stronger than in previous years. Established players will be champing at the bit to be involved, and this will benefit Arsene Wenger’s bid to lift this trophy for the first time in his distinguished career at the helm of Arsenal.
The opposition travelling to The Emirates will not exactly give easy passage to the Semi-Finals however. Claude Puel’s Southampton are a strong unit, and the seemingly endless procession of talented youngsters coming from the South Coast will be pumped for the game, as well as some of their own bigger stars. Arsenal were victorious in their Premier League meeting at The Emirates in September – running out 2-1 winners – but league form doesn’t apply in the majority of cup games, and this will be no different.
In terms of who will make up the home team, the EFL Cup and its previous incarnations have always provided a small portal for the masses of Gooners to view the potential future of the club, and despite the many players who will want to play, Arsene Wenger will no doubt include at least a couple of the second string kids.
One who is a strong shout to play is Ainslie Maitland-Niles, and his versatility has seen him play at right-back and in centre midfield so far in previous rounds. Another who may play is Rob Holding, who has more than impressed since his summer move from Bolton Wanderers.The much heralded Jeff Reine-Adelaide played in the last round, and the talented Frenchman should get the nod this time around.
Emiliano Martinez has played all of the EFL Cup games so far, and the 24yr old will no doubt keep the gloves for this game, but the rest of the team is harder to decipher.
A surprise inclusion is the return of Lucas Perez. The Spaniard has shown remarkable powers of recovery to be included in the plans for this game, and Wenger has said he is ready to go during his latest press conference. The striker could well get the striker spot, but one player who must be included is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The Ox scored both goals in the previous round’s win over Reading, and he has scored the last three goals the club have scored in this competition. Whilst his confidence may be low after a sub-par performance in Arsenal’s 3-1 win over Bournemouth, the best remedy for such a malaise is a strong showing in the next game.
Claude Puel will no doubt fancy his chances in this Cup, and his team selection will be more than a match for the home team. Despite Southampton exiting the cup at this stage in their last seven attempts, the brand of football they play will always grant them chances. Arsenal’s shuffled defence will have to be switched on to safeguard their own hopes.
Josh Sims, 19, will miss the trip to The Emirates, and his livewire debut game in the 1-0 win over Everton in the weekend showcased the latest prodigy to hail from the club. James Ward-Prowse, Matt Targett, Sam McQueen and Sofiane Boufal could all play, and Boufal in particular will pose a real threat. The mazy French wideman is highly rated for good reason, and returns from injury to make the squad.
So, yet another match, but a golden opportunity to make the semi-finals of a competition we haven’t lifted since 1993. Key players will be rested for this game, so the players who do take to the pitch have a great chance to extend their playing time.
No harm can come from progression. Success breeds success and winning is a habit.
Predicted Lineup – Martinez, Jenkinson, Gabriel, Holding, Gibbs, Maitland-Niles, Coquelin, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Reine-Adelaide, Iwobi, Lucas
Predicted scoreline – 3-2 Arsenal