With the victory over Aston Villa just behind them, Arsenal are straight back into action tonight as they play at home to Wigan Athletic in the quarter finals of the Carling Cup. As it stands the bad weather in London means that there is a chance that the game won't go ahead, but I'll preview it as if it will.
The Carling Cup is a competition Arsenal have not taken seriously in a long time, but it would seem that things have changed this season. In previous years Arsene Wenger has played very young and inexperienced teams in this competition, but his policy has changed this season. The team that is chosen tonight will have a lot of changes from the one that beat Aston Villa 4-2 on Saturday, but it will not contain the amount of inexperience that it has in previous years.
A win will pit Arsenal through to a two legged semi final, which will be played on midweek nights in January, with a possible final to follow on a weekend in February. They are fixtures that a team competing for the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup could do without, but the lack of a trophy for almost six years would seem to be playing on the manager's mind. Some people would argue that winning the Carling Cup isn't winning a major trophy, but it would seem that the manager doesn't think so, this season at least.
The team should see a number of changes from Saturday, but a few players will have to play again. Wojceich Szczesny is sure to start in goal in my opinion, with a back four of Kieran Gibbs, Emmanuel Eboue, Laurent Koscielny and Johan Djourou. Eboue has made a remarkable recovery from his injury, which we were told would keep him out for up to two months, and it's quite incredible to believe that he was only injured a week ago. The other defenders are all certainties to start, as Gibbs needs games, and we only have two fit centre backs.
In midfield the only certain starter for me is Denilson, and the choice of the other two players might well show the manager's ambitions in this competition. I think that Jack Wilshere will probably play, and the other spot is between Alex Song, Samir Nasri and Tomas Rosicky. I have a sneaking suspicion that Nasri will get the nod, as the player to pull the strings in midfield.
The attacking trio will more than likely consist of Theo Walcott, Carlos Vela and Nicklas Bendtner, but the boss might spring a surprise and actually give Robin Van Persie a start at last. He was brought on as a sub in the defeats to Newcastle and The Spuds, but it is surely about time that he was given a chance to show the fans what they have being missing. If he was able to play half a game for Holland two weeks ago, then surely he can manage the first hour for Arsenal tonight.
Wigan find themselves in the bottom three in the Premier League, and they have scored less goals than any other team in the league so far this season. With Arsenal only being outscored by "Manure" so far, they have to be odds on to bag a few goals tonight. The teams that played in the previous two games in this competition this season have turned in excellent performances. The 4-1 away victory over The Spuds, and the 4-0 away win over Newcastle were two of the best displays for Arsenal so far this season. Those two victories were away from home of course, where Arsenal's domestic form has been excellent so far this season.
It's Arsenal's home form that has caused concern so far, with three defeats in seven league games. The boss is very hopeful of sorting out those problems at home, and tonight should be a perfect opportunity to start that improvement. There's a home game to come in the Premier League on Saturday when Fulham pay Arsenal a visit, and three points in that game are vital. For me one of the biggest problems at home has been the lack of urgency that Arsenal seem to have in those games. It's as if they believe that the victory will arrive no matter what, and as a result they don't put in the effort that is required to achieve that victory.
Despite the fact that the team won't be the strongest one available tonight I predict a 3-0 win for Arsenal, and I would love to see RVP get his name on the score sheet. I would also love to see Jay Emmanuel Thomas get a run of at least 30 minutes as I'm dying to see exactly what he can do. It won't be an easy victory as Wigan play a good brand of football, but if Arsenal can bring the attitude and commitment that is expected of them in home games, then I'm sure they can look forward to the semi final draw.
Wigan beat Arsenal in a two legged semi final of this competition a few years ago with a last minute goal, and it's time for Arsenal to extract a little bit of revenge for that night at Highbury. They went on to lose the final to "Manure" if I remember correctly, and as it stands "Manure" are the holders of the Carling Cup, having won it twice in a row. What's the chances of Arsenal drawing them in the semi finals, if they overcome West Ham in tonight's other quarter final.
If the game is to be called off it will be because of the conditions outside the ground being too dangerous. The very same thing happened with the home league game against Bolton last season, and that was a night time kick off too. With 60,000 people converging on the ground it can be difficult to ensure the safety of all of them in freezing conditions, and the darkness doesn't help. Hopefully the game will go ahead, as the next possible date to play it is a few days before the very busy Christmas campaign gets underway.
In other news I forgot to report yesterday that Arsenal got a home tie against Leeds United in the third round of the FA Cup. As it stands the game will be played on Saturday the 8th of January, but that could be subject to change if the TV companies decide to air it live.
The value of Aaron Ramsey going out on loan to Nottingham Forest was seen last night as he played for the last half hour of their defeat away to Leicester City. With Arsenal's reserve team only having one game in the month of December, he had to go somewhere that he could continue his comeback at a rate that will see him available to Arsenal as soon as possible. I hope the game went well for him, and that we will see him back at The Emirates in January in tip top condition.
If you're going to tonight's game I hope that it goes ahead, and you enjoy the game. I know how cold The Emirates can be on a cold night, and I'm sure everybody will be wrapped up very tight, and possibly have a drink or two beforehand for medicinal purposes of course.
That's it for today.
See You Tomorrow.