Tag Archives: league cup

Carabao Cup Final – Arsenal Vs Man City Preview

Despite our inability to muster any form of consistency throughout a turbulent season, we’ve somehow got a great chance at some silverware.

The League Cup has been derided for many years, but in recent seasons, some of the elite have gone all out to claim the trophy. And what’s not to desire?

It is a Wembley trip for fans, it’s a trophy in what is becoming a lethal battleground for glory. to win a cup is harder than ever, so Arsene Wenger must be delighted we’re just one game away from lifting silverware.

It also represents the only domestic trophy he has never won, and winning it would mean he joins an elite group of managers. His opponent that blocks his path to the annals of history though, couldn’t be much tougher.

Pep Guardiola’s City side are walking away with the title and are looking a tasty bet for the Champions League, although it is rather early to say. We’ve only beaten them once in the last five games and we sit a massive 27 points behind them in the Premier League table.

There are strands of optimism to latch onto though.

Claudio Bravo will be taking City’s goalkeeping spot ahead of the effervescent Ederson, and the former Barca man may be talented, but his own way of commanding his area has not translated well to our shores. He represents a weakness in the City juggernaut.

Then there is the defence. John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi are well covered by Pep’s attention to detail and his need for an effective press, but when pressured, their insistence to play out from the back can be preyed upon.

Still, we need to be at our best to use these weaknesses as weapons, and we haven’t been anywhere near that for some time. We’ve hit splashes of form – our North London Derby win earlier in the season was particularly effective, and our games against Chelsea have shown we can knuckle down and play a different way.

They’ve been few and far between though.

In terms of team news, Henrikh Mkhitaryan is cup-tied, so it looks as if Jack Wilshere will take his place in the side. Mesut Ozil should return after illness and Aaron Ramsey – he who is making a welcome habit of having an impact in cup finals – looks set to return too.

In defence, we should be able to recall Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi and Nacho Monreal to our defence. That is a huge boost as without them we are as weak as kittens fighting off any form of attack – and City have one of the best.

Gabriel Jesus is available for selection, but with Aguero on form it may be a place on the bench for the fit-again Brazilian. Kevin DeBruyne will provide the ammo, but Raheem Sterling is nursing a muscle strain and could miss out. Fabian Delph is suspended.

There will be many key areas that we need to win on the pitch if we’re to harbour any hope of upsetting the odds. Midfield is certainly the most important.

If Granit Xhaka and Rambo can take control in the engine room, then they can make sure that City’s defence is kept in a pressure cooker, and when they play out from deep, we can keep a high line and eke out mistakes. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is vital to this plan.

The Gabon striker is lightning-heeled, and if he presses effectively, then the likes of Otamendi, Stones or Laporte and Gundogan could be pushed into corners. Pivotal to City is David Silva.

The little Spaniard so often provides the link between DeBruyne and midfield, and if he’s allowed any space, then the battle is lost. Xhaka needs to pick up his runners more effectively, and if he does then half the battle is won.

Another talking point has been whether to use a 3-man defence. It seems to be better suited to combat City’s attack, and when Nacho is more central, then we seem a little tougher to beat.

This could prove to be a turning point in our season, a catalyst. Or it could be a false dawn. Either way, we should be giving everything to this cause – something our players can’t claim to have done for a while.

Predicted scoreline – Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Ramsey, Wilshere, Ozil, Aubameyang

Predicted scoreline – 3-2 to The Arsenal. #UTA

Chelsea Vs Arsenal Semi-Final Carabao Cup 1st Leg Preview

It may not be the best choice of opponent, but any match gives us the opportunity to erase the taste of our embarrassing FA Cup exit to Nottingham Forest.

If we could have chosen a team to face, Chelsea wouldn’t have been one we went for. The Blues are in fine form and we, quite simply, aren’t. Antonio Conte may well be rattled by the constant stream of Jose Mourinho bile, but our draw last week shows that he will take this match very seriously.

Funnily enough, the Italian coach nearly had the same fate befall him and his team in the weekend. Fresh from our 2-2 draw, we both went into our FA Cup matches against Championship opposition. The difference was that we lost convincingly, and Chelsea escaped with a 0-0 draw.

Conte also rested the majority of his big hitters, but his squad is a little stronger than ours. Yet they also put in a sub-par display against the Canaries.

Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois, Victor Moses, Cesc Fabregas, N’Golo Kante and Alvaro Morata have all been rested, so will most likely line up against us. Pedro, Michy Batshuayi and Willian will drop to the bench after failing to impress against Norwich.

In terms of our team, Alexis is still with us, for now, so should be back in the team. Mesut Ozil is also back in contention, but if any of the eleven who got humped against Forest make the eleven, they can think themselves very lucky. With our squad looking a little thin, then we might have to have at least one from Holding, Mertesacker, Welbeck and Walcott on the bench.

The whole team should conceivably be changed, but there are doubts hanging over Shkodran Mustafi and Granit Xhaka. The biggest miss would be Mustafi right now, with Koscielny looking dicey on the fitness front, Holding low on confidence and Nacho still a month from fitness. If Xhaka misses out, then Elneny, the perhaps off-to-Valencia-Coquelin or even Ainslie Maitland-Niles could come in.

The Carabao Cup was prioritised by Wenger as we are in the latter stages. This makes sense of course, but if we were to be dumped out by the Blues, then his plan will have backfired, much like his weak bench he named for the Forest debacle. A two-legged affair with Chelsea is a tough hurdle to jump, and with a probable Final against City to come, we may have bet on the wrong horse here.

The Europa League has some big hitters in the draw, and with our Premier League top four spot in serious jeopardy, we are slipping towards the worst season in recent memory.

We have the capacity to defeat Chelsea, our FA Cup final win showed us that, as well as last week’s draw that could have went either way. It all hinges on which Arsenal show up. We were excellent in midfield and attack versus the Blues, but our defence was suspect, letting Morata have three one-on-ones is something we need to rectify.

We will need Koscielny and Mustafi if we are to stay in this tie for the second leg. Home factor may swing this though.

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Mustafi, Chambers, Holding, Bellerin, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Wilshere, Ozil, Alexis, Lacazette.

Predicted Scoreline – 1-1.

Arsenal Vs Southampton – EFL Cup Preview

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

Arsenal Vs Reading – EFL Cup Preview

Three days after a disappointing draw against Middlesbrough in the Premier League, Arsenal have the chance to return to winning ways immediately, with this EFL Cup meeting at home versus Reading.

Despite dropping points at home, other results featuring our title rivals ended favourably, which leaves the Gunners primed near the top – and with a list of priorities as full as our squad list.

Arsene Wenger yesterday was at the club’s AGM, which clashed with training, but he insisted that the club would fight on all fronts, including this competition – which is one he has failed to win in his two decades at Arsenal.

The EFL cup used to be derided by the major teams, us included, but any silverware to show off to the fans at the end of the season is to be celebrated, and so all major Premier League teams now focus on the competition a lot more than in previous years – to prove it, just look at the teams that will be named.

In terms of Arsenal and who will make the team, it is rather exciting trying to guess who will make the lineup – and even more so being able to see some of the lesser seen players being able to strut their stuff. 

Damian Martinez started the last EFL Cup round, and will be expected to wear the gloves again. After that, it is a case of educated estimation.

A host of fringe players will be champing at the bit to get some valuable game time. Gabriel, Rob Holding, Carl Jenkinson, Jeff-Reine-Adelaide, Chuba Akpom, Lucas Perez, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mohamed Elneny will be eagerly awaiting Wenger’s decision, and they all stand a great chance of lining up against the Royals. 

Mohamed Elneny in particular will be looking to get up to speed as quickly as possible, with Santi Cazorla perhaps sidelined for longer than projected, the Egyptian will be looking to take his chance with both hands, and that means putting in performances that make it harder for Cazorla to instantly return to the side.

It isn’t just the players who aren’t part of the first team that are looking to get on the team sheet. 

Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey have returned to first team training, and all that is missing is match sharpness, so it isn’t a huge leap to think that the Frenchman will indeed take to the pitch tonight at some stage, although Ramsey may just miss out.

This would mean that this experimental lineup will be peppered with genuine experience and class, as well as youthful hunger. I will be attending the game, and cannot wait to cheer to the rafters whoever wears the jersey.

We are of course favourites to win it, but Reading are no pushovers. Everyone will remember the 7-5 epic tie in this competition from a few years ago, and with Jaap Stam as coach, they will have defensive solidity as a priority. 

The Royals will pose a threat, but with the dazzling array of talent we can call upon to fill the side, we should have no excuses.

Reading have not beaten Arsenal in thirteen attempts, and the Gunners haven’t lost at home to lower league opposition in this competition since 1963, so hopefully this continues! There is a cursory note though, as Arsenal have lost their last two home games in this competition – and we have never lost three in a row. 

This tie is there to be won, and handsomely. Let us continue with the great run we have been enjoying, and in turn, stay in contention for the cup.

Predicted Lineup – Martinez, Jenkinson, Gabriel, Holding, Gibbs, Coquelin, Elneny, Jeff, Ox, Lucas, Akpom.

Predicted Score – 4-1

Nottingham Forest Vs Arsenal – EFL Cup Preview

In recent years, and in its many incarnations, the League Cup has provided our club the opportunity to field our crop of exciting youngsters as in terms of priority, it falls behind other forms of silverware.

The League Cup has enjoyed a revival in recent years, and as such, the percentage of first team players has risen accordingly, but the starlets grabbing the attention of Arsene have still looked upon this competition as their best chance to make a mark on first team plans.

Fans also look forward to seeing the next potential wunderkind take to the pitch, and the lower ticket prices never harm attendances, but this season may see an experience-laden team take on Nottingham Forest in our first outing in the EFL Cup.

This is a double-edged sword. It is to the detriment of our youngsters hoping to get a taste of the limelight – and tougher opposition to gauge their progress – but it also means that our squad is probably healthier and heavier in number than it has been in many a year. 

You cannot have both.

So, the lineup for this fixture should see a raft of more experienced players, rather than a large swathe of Reserve players. 

David Ospina played last week against PSG in the Champions League and did his prospects no harm whatsoever with a virtuoso performance which kept the Gunners in the game. The Colombian should be back in the side for this game.

In terms of defence, Rob Holding is another who can look forward to a return to the team, and alongside the young defender from Bolton, Brazilian Gabriel may make his return from injury – he was crocked in the first game of the season – and could be Holding’s partner in the middle of the backline.

Our depth continues in defence. Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal are expected to be rested, so Mathieu Debuchy and Kieran Gibbs are the able deputies that will get the nod to play, and hopefully send a timely reminder to the Boss that they can be relied upon.

In midfield, there are a myriad of options Wenger can call upon, but Mohamed Elneny, Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Gedion Zelalem and Chris Willock will be looking to at least get a sniff of the pitch. 

Many of the youngsters trained with the first team yesterday, and this may give a hint towards who will be at least named on the bench.

Alongside the kids named above, goalkeeper Matt Macey, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Krystian Bielik, Ben Sheaf, Stephy Mavididi, Emile Smith-Rowe, Josh DaSilva and Reiss Nelson were the others lucky enough to be included alongside the first team stars. More than a few won’t be named, but the difference in the lineup for this game compared to our 4-1 win over Hull City will be remarkable.

Gooners travelling to the City Ground will not only be viewing Arsenal’s future on the pitch, it appears that they may get a prolonged viewing of new signing Lucas Perez. The Spaniard has been used sparingly, but this seems the perfect time for the former Deportivo man to hit the ground running and attempt to acclimatise himself. Chuba Akpom will be vying with him for the striker slot, and hopefully face off against some former teammates from when he was on loan at the club for a short time in 2015.

In keeping with the theme of returning to former clubs, there will be a very familiar face in the opposition colours. 

‘Lord’ Nicklas Bendtner joined Forest in the last transfer window, and is already off the mark for the season. The big Dane left Arsenal in 2014, and went to VFL Wolfsburg for two years, before finding himself in the Championship. Another former Gunner – Henri Lansbury, could also play against his former side.

We should be more than aware of his strengths, but hopefully he will get a decent reception from the away boys.

Last seasons League Cup exploits need to be exorcised. The 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Sheffield Wednesday still smarts upon recollection, and whilst there are far more important targets this season, this is still a competition that Wenger has not won in his long tenure with Arsenal. 

First thing is first – a win away from home, and some promising displays from the benchwarmers and shining talents on display is highest on the agenda. 

Picking a lineup is difficult, but:

Ospina, Debuchy, Gabriel, Holding, Gibbs, Elneny, Coquelin, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Iwobi, Perez, Akpom

Predicted Score – 3-0 Arsenal

Sheffield Wednesday 3-0 Arsenal – Capital One Cupset

This tie was meant to be an audition of sorts for Arsenal’s future. It was meant to represent a chance for Gooners to see the supposed depth that their team possessed. It was a stepping stone for the more frustrated players of our squad to showcase their abilities and reassure Arsene Wenger that they are more than ready if called upon to slot back in to the first team.

A combination of Sheffield Wednesday, a disturbing lack of a competitive edge and defensive naivete put paid to any hopes of an exhibition for Gooners to enjoy. Instead, they made the long trip back to London all the more torturous.

Continue reading Sheffield Wednesday 3-0 Arsenal – Capital One Cupset

Sheffield Wednesday Vs Arsenal – Capital One Cup Preview

Before the journalists latched onto Arsenal’s relatively empty trophy cabinet, Gooners could look forward to a League Cup campaign where the potential future of the side were given a taster of what to expect if their dreams came true and their hard work came to fruition.

It was exciting to watch these young players literally fighting to impress the boss and show him that they were made of the right stuff. So often, they produced results that suggested they were more than ready for the step up for the first team and fans who turned up to watch them normally enjoyed ninety minutes packed with incident.

Then, the obsession about ending the ‘trophy drought’ began. Seasons passed and with every one, Wenger was forced to slowly fill his normally fledgling team with more and more established stars in League Cup games.

That is, until the silverware returned to Arsenal.

This season, Arsene Wenger has the luxury of once more giving a lucrative chance to youngsters desperate for a whiff of first team action. Gooners will again be able to enjoy a trip to a possible future – players who, if they apply themselves and show that their talent is allied with a work ethic and patience – can be a potential lynchpin to the side in a few seasons.

Continue reading Sheffield Wednesday Vs Arsenal – Capital One Cup Preview