Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Arsenal's Capital One Cup Game With West Brom Previewed

The Premier League leaders make their way to Birmingham tonight to play West Brom in the third round of the Capital One Cup. It needs saying twice almost to say Arsenal top the league considering how the transfer window progressed and the first game of the season went. Arsenal have really turned things around since then with four league wins in a row and the marquee signing of Mesut Ozil.

When Ozil signed I said Arsenal now had the best player in the league and the four assists in his first two league games have done nothing to disprove that. He already has more assists than any other player this season and he has only played two games. He is showing why he is the player with the most assists in the top leagues in Europe over the last four years.

With a push for the league title now looking a distinct possibility it's a little unfortunate to have a Capital One Cup game thrown into the mix. Under different guises Arsenal have come very close in this competition on a few occasions since they last won a trophy, but in reality it's the poor relation of trophies. I would almost prefer to see Arsenal go out of this competition tonight than get to another semi final or final only to lose again.

With so many injured players at the moment the players available could probably do with a midweek break from competitive football rather than facing a top flight team away from home. Every midweek date available so far this season they have been in Champions League action and it's not easy to play twice a week every week. I have no doubt Arsene Wenger will do all he can to rest some players tonight while still putting out a competitive team.

Who he decides to play could well have an impact on the game, but he has to give players who need it a rest. There's a trip to Swansea in the league on Saturday evening to think of as well as more Champions League action next week. Those games have to take priority in my opinion and I think they will.

With that in mind I expect to see the bench from Sunday's win over Stoke all getting a chance which should mean there's a pretty good looking defence at least. Both Thomas Vermaelen and Nacho Monreal are current members of two of the best international teams but they can't get into the Arsenal team at the moment. They should both be in from the start along with Carl Jenkinson and Lukasz Fabianski and the other central defensive role could well be filled by Isaac Hayden although I think either Per Mertesacker or Laurent Koscielny will probably start.

The biggest problems could come in midfield where Mikael Arteta will probably play although he has only a few minutes under his belt since his return from injury. There's a possibility of Emmanuel Frimpong playing there with him but I'm really not sure who will take up the attacking midfield role. I hope Aaron Ransey, Jack Wilshere and Ozil are all rested for their good and the good of the club too.

The final midfield place could be taken by Thonas Eisfeld or to play in behind the striker and there's a chance Mathieu Flamini could play instead of Frimpong too. Eisfeld could even push to a wide role if Serge Gnabry plays behind the striker and it's anyone's guess really what the midfield trio will be. 

In attack we could see the return of Nicklas Bendtner from the wilderness for his first game for Arsenal in a very long time. How he's still at the club I'm not sure, but if he's half the player he thinks he is he still has something to offer. If he does play tonight at any stage I hope he can put in the effort and commitment the team needs.

I would imagine both Ryo Myiachi and Gnabry will be playing in the wide roles despite Gnabry having played on Sunday. He needs as much time as possible in the team now that Theo Walcott is the latest player to join the list of injured players. Walcott's pace to get on to Ozil's through balls will be sorely missed, but Gnabry has a real chance to make a name for himself.

Myiachi looked very good when he was loaned out to Feyenord a couple of years ago but loan moves since then haven't been a real success. He has suffered with injuries and hopefully he too can take the chance to impress tonight and stake a claim for at least an occasional place in the team. It could be a big night for both of those players and they both certainly have the ability to make the most of it.

It won't be an easy task for Arsenal by any stretch of the imagination, but the ability they should have to call from the bench could be second to none. Players who are lighting the league up at the moment could be ready to take part if needed, but hopefully the likes of Ozil and Ramsey can take the whole night off. 

As I said at the top of the page I'm not too bothered by the result and I'll be happy if the team perform well. I know there's a lot to be said for momentum at the moment with the team on a run of seven wins in a row and 10 successive away wins. I still think the fitness of the players who will be needed for more important games takes priority though and I hope the boss sees it that way too.

West Brom haven't had a great start to their season and only managed their first win in the league on Saturday. They have found goals hard to come by and hopefully that will be the case again tonight. I would be surprised if they field a weakened team as the chance to get a win over Arsenal is one they will certainly want to take advantage of.

I always want Arsenal to win no matter who they are playing and tonight is no different. If it doesn't work out that way so be it though as long as no more first choice players pick up injuries. There are far more important games to come and I think they are where Arsenal have to place their emphasis.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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