Arsene Wenger has used the competition to blood youngsters and give fringe players an outing as well as those returning from injury. The usual set up was 10 or 11 changes from the weekend team as Arsenal's youngsters quite often put in excellent displays. Those displays haven't been quite the same in the last couple of seasons and I can't say I was too unhappy to go out this season although any defeat leaves a nasty taste.
With the current injury crisis in the Arsenal defence it was definitely for the best that the players had the week to train and prepare for the upcoming challenges rather than fight tooth and nail away to Shrewsbury like Chelsea had to do. Even with their vast funds and large squad they still made only eight changes from the team which drew with United on Sunday and they just scraped through. I hope they make it through to the semi finals along with Liverpool and have a tough two legged semi final in January.
Meanwhile a bruised and battered Arsenal defence can concentrate on finding four players fit to play Burnley on Saturday. With Kieran Gibbs limping off against Sunderland and Per Mertesacker looking like he took a knock too that could be a very tough task. As it stands it looks like Nacho Monreal, Calum Chambers and Hector Bellerin are the only defensive certainties for Saturday and it might not be a bad thing if they got the chance to train together this week.
For so much of the season Arsenal play twice a week and there is little opportunity for the coaching staff to get an extended run on the training ground with the players. Between match preparation and travel to and from games there might be two days at best in midweek, but this week offers them an opportunity of a whole week uninterrupted. We can all think of numerous parts of the game which the team need to work on together and individually and this week will hopefully afford them the opportunity to do so.
A home game against the bottom club on Saturday afternoon is the ideal opportunity to keep the sequence of victories going as is the game at home to Anderlecht a few days later. If the team can use this chance to regroup to push them on and win those two games they will find themselves on a sequence of four wins in a row. The best way to install confidence in any team is to win games and four wins in a row would surely help them to do so.
There might be tougher challenges ahead but winning the next two games will be a massive boost. The points dropped by the other top teams last weekend were a big boost to Arsenal as they were winning and they need to continue that progress at home to winless Burnley. The consequences of not winning at home to a side destined for relegation are not worth thinking about.
Likewise a win over Anderlecht would as good as seal a spot in the last 16 of the Champions League. I have no doubt Dortmund will win at home to Galatasaray at the same time which would mean an Arsenal win would guarantee second place in the group at worst. Second place has led to a very tough last 16 draw in the last few seasons for Arsenal, but they can still beat any team over two legs if they apply themselves properly to the task.
By this time next week we could be looking at Arsenal in the top four and with the knockout stages of the Champions League guaranteed yet again. I'm not saying it would all be down to the week off (from games) they have had but I think it could certainly play a part. Let's just hope they use that week wisely and come back on Saturday raring to go.
That's it for today.
See you tomorrow.