Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Arsenal's Carabao Cup Semi Final First Leg At Chelsea Previewed

Given the choice I would prioritise the FA Cup over the Carabao Cup every single season and I think Arsene Wenger would too, but it looks like it will be the other way around this week. He took a gamble in his FA Cup selection at Forest on Sunday and that was probably influenced by injuries and players needing a rest after a hectic festive schedule. That gamble backfired spectacularly in the 4-2 defeat to Forest and he now more or less has to play the strongest team he has available against Chelsea tonight in the first leg of our Carabao Cup semi final. The prize for the winner over the two legs is a trip to Wembley and a final against either Manchester City or Bristol City with the Manchester team obviously favourites to make it.

When it comes to the team selection tonight the manager has said he won't have any of the injured players back and there are doubts over Mesut Ozil, Shkodran Mustafi and Granit Xhaka with Francis Coquelin seemingly on his way to Valencia too. All of that could leave us a little threadbare against a team who found far too many holes in our defence when we met in the league last week. We managed a 2-2 draw at home in that game, but the finishing of Alvaro Morata in particular on the night was awful and we could have shipped an awful lot more goals.

We did some things right in that game too and we are a real attacking force to be reckoned with at home in particular, but we have struggled away from home this season. We did manage a 0-0 at Chelsea in the Premier League back in September and a similar result tonight would be more than acceptable. The way we have defended recently, regardless of the opposition or who we have in our team, leads me to believe our chances of a clean sheet tonight are very slim though.

I expect David Ospina will keep his place as it's a cup game, but otherwise I hope we bring back Hector Bellerin, Mustafi (if he's fit), Xhaka (if he's fit), Jack Wilshere, Ozil (if he's fit), Alexandre Lacazette and most crucially of all Alexis Sanchez. The rumours of Alexis's impending departure are rife and I wouldn't be surprised if we cashed in while we can still get some sort of fee for him, but I would prefer to see him stay as we are just so short of quality and that's something he has in abundance. He's our most likely match winner week in and week out and we would be crazy to let him go without a top class replacement coming the other way.

It's a huge task to expect this team to get anything from this game when you consider we have only won twice in our last nine games. We have drawn a lot of those games though and a draw tonight would be a more than acceptable result with the second leg at the Emirates in two weeks. I hope the manager doesn't rest any players ahead of Sunday's league game at Bournemouth as we have a week off after that game (well six days to the Palace game at least) and we need something for the fans tonight after Sunday's debacle.

If we're going to get anything from the game we have to improve at the back and it's something we just don't seem capable of at the moment. We give the ball away far too easily and players lose concentration so easily that it's hard to believe there's anyone out there telling them what to do. As well as that we struggle with the press and give up the ball far too easily under pressure in the most dangerous situations. Overall this season we have defended set pieces fairly well, but Forest's first goal on Sunday was an absolute shambles and a basic lesson in lack of concentration and no leadership.

We need the big players to lead by example tonight and for that reason I really hope Ozil plays too because we have so much more to offer in attack with him in the team. He has his detractors, but I firmly believe we are a far better attacking force with him in the team and I hope we can sort his contract situation out before he departs for free in the summer too. I'll be watching tonight's game in hope more than expectation, but sometimes this team can surprise us and that's exactly what we need tonight.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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