With the weekend Premier League defeat to Blackburn Rovers still fresh in the minds of their fans Arsenal are back in action tonight. They face a home game against League Two side Shrewsbury Town in the third round of the Carling Cup. Arsenal took this competition a lot more seriously than usual last season and reached the final where they were beaten 2-1 by Birmingham City.
It was a game Arsenal should have won, but a comical piece of defending in the last minute cost them the game. It's a scenario that sounds all too familiar to Arsenal fans and this season has started with more of the same from the team. The manner of their defeat to Blackburn on Saturday was another episode from the Arsenal manual of how not to defend, and it's a problem which has to be sorted out before it's too late.
A good win against Shrewsbury could be just the tonic the Arsenal players need, and that's a good argument for playing a strong team against them. I think the players might be better served getting in a full week's work on the training ground, as there has been no real time for the new players to settle in since they signed on deadline day. Hopefully a full week of defensive work on the training ground will be of some advantage to the team as a whole.
If that's the case then Arsene Wenger will use the fringe players and younger players against Shrewsbury, and I think that's the most likely method of team selection. It means the Arsenal fans will get a chance to see some of the promising players at the club showing what they can do, and I like that prospect. In previous seasons those young players have performed really well in this competition, and they have never let the club down.
I expect Arsene Wenger to start with a completely different team to the one that started against Blackburn on Saturday. It should see Lukasz Fabianski in goal with Carl Jenkinson and Kieran Gibbs as the two full backs. I think the central defensive pairing will probably be Johan Djourou and Ignasi Miquel, and it will hopefully give Djourou a chance to play in his favourite position after his troubles as a substitute for Bacary Sagna on Saturday.
The midfield should see Emmanuel Frimpong play from the start and I think Yossi Benayoun will play in front of him. The other midfield player isn't so easy to predict, but I think Alec Oxlade-Chamberlain can play there. He's probably seen as a winger, but I think Wenger will be happy to see him operate behind a central striker.
The attacking trio will probably be led by Marouane Chamakh with Ju Young Park on one side of him and possibly Ryo Miyaichi on the other if he is fit enough to play. Chamakh got his first goal since last November when he came on as a substitute on Saturday, and hopefully it will help him to regain some confidence. The two wide players will be making their competitive debuts for Arsenal, and I'm looking forward to seeing what they can do.
If Ryo isn't fit enough to start I think Francis Coquelin will play in the midfield with Chamberlain going into a wide role. If he was to play alongside Frimpong it might give the team a more defensive look to it, and I don't think Wenger will go for that. That Arsenal lineup has six full internationals in it, as well as some really promising talent and it's good enough to get a result on the night.
Shrewsbury have had a good start to the season and they currently sit in an automatic promotion slot in League Two. However, Arsenal have to be huge favourites to win the game, regardless of how they have played so far this season. The class of the Arsenal players is not something which is in doubt, but their ability to make that class tell is under scrutiny.
In previous seasons the young Arsenal players have gone out and played with passion and commitment in the Carling Cup, and with no little skill either. The performance tonight might point to how much recent results have affected the whole squad if the players turn in a below par performance. I'm hoping for the opposite, as the youngsters take the opportunity to showcase their talents and show Wenger why they should be considered for the first team.
With the club selling Carling Cup tickets at a reduced price there should be a large turnout for the game, and hopefully those fans can get behind the team. A good performance from the team, as well as some very vocal support could be just the tonic the club as a whole needs.
I want Arsenal to win of course, but ultimately the Carling Cup is the least important competition the club will play in this season. I'm predicting a 3-1 win for Arsenal with Chamberlain hopefully playing a starring role. I would gladly sacrifice progression in the Carling Cup for six points in Arsenal's next two league games against Bolton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur.
The game isn't live on TV to the best of my knowledge which means I'll be looking for a stream like so many other Arsenal fans if I want to watch it live. The details to follow me on Twitter are below, and I'll gladly share any stream I get with anyone looking for it.
That's it for today.
Here's a little bit of what Chamberlain can do.
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