Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Arsenal Face Southampton In The Capital One Cup

After what could only be described as a perfect weekend in the Premier League for Arsenal they face Southampton tonight in the third round of the Capital One Cup. It's a competition in which Arsenal have done well in the past, but not quite so well in recent seasons. They haven't actually won the League Cup since 1993 and have never done so under Arsene Wenger despite reaching the final in 2007 and 2011.

The manager has traditionally given a run to fringe players and reserves in league cup games and I can't see this game being any different. He has quite often played a completely different starting 11 in this competition from the one which has played in the previous league game. This game should give a few players a chance to show what they can do and maybe try to impress the boss.

We should get our first chance to see David Ospina in an Arsenal goalkeepers shirt and he could be in for a pretty busy night too. In defence I imagine both Hector Bellerin and Isaac Hayden will get a run out, but it's not easy to see who else might play there. Semi Ajayi has been drafted into the squad and he could well see himself in the centre of defence with Hayden. Who plays at left back is anybody's guess although I suppose there is a chance Francis Coquelin will have to fill in with no other real options. Nacho Monreal is still injured and I would be very surprised if injury prone Kieran Gibbs was risked.

There are plenty of options in midfield and I would imagine a combination of Mathieu Flamini, Abou Diaby, Tomas Rosicky and Gideon Zelalem might be the ones to play. Jack Wilshere is a possibility after he was on the bench at the weekend, but I would be surprised if he was risked in a game which is so far down the list of priorities for the club. There's plenty of talent in that foursome and it would be great to see Diaby in particular playing a competitive match for Arsenal.

In attack I suppose Lukas Podolski is a shoe in to start with Joel Campbell more than likely to get a run out too. That would leave Chuba Akpom on the bench and hopefully he can get a run at some stage in the game. He's a talented player and has looked very good in his appearances for the under 21 team so far this season.

I would be surprised if Southampton didn't play a full strength team to continue their fine start to the season. They have taken 10 points in their last four games and are in second place behind leaders Chelsea. They have also got the best defensive record in the league so far this season with only three goals conceded in their five games and only one in their last four.

There was some concern that they would struggle after they sold so many of their players in the summer, but Ronald Koeman appears to be doing a very good job. They are still playing an attractive brand of football and look like they are capable of giving any team a run for their money. They're not going to win the league though and a top four finish is probably beyond them so a good cup run is probably the best they can hope for.

A win away to Arsenal would be a great feather in their collective caps for Southampton and a further boost to their confidence too. If they play a strong team they have every chance of doing so with the probable Arsenal defence looking short of experience at this level. The winners go through to the last 16 and I have no doubt Southampton would be more than happy to progress to the next round.

For me the Capital One Cup offers some young Arsenal players a chance to sample first team football and play in front of a very large crowd. I'm not too bothered whether they progress or not, but I do want to see a good performance from the players who are chosen. If they manage to get through to the next round then that's great but it's no big deal if they go out.

I will of course be cheering Arsenal on and hoping for a victory as always when they play, but I won't be taking the result as a pointer to how the rest of the season is going to go. In an ideal world Arsenal will win with Diaby shining and Campbell maybe getting his first goal for the club too. There are bigger fish to fry though with Spurs, Galatasary and Chelsea all coming up after this game and it's important to have the strongest team possible for those three games which has to be the most important factor when tonight's team is picked.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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