Carling Cup Preview: Are Wigan-er Win This Competition?
Wigan may pitch up at The Emirates this evening but if they do, will anyone else with weather warnings being issued. Arsenal have told everyone to plan as if the match is going ahead and so we shall.
Tonight’s visitors are no strangers to Arsenal in this competition. Recent seasons have seen them win 2005/06’s semi-final and lose in the fourth round in 2008/09. Their record at Arsenal though is less impressive, having lost every visit, not having scored since February 2007s Premier League defeat.
Arsene is not taking the tie lightly and will field a side similarly strong to that which took the field in the impressive victories at Tottenham and Newcastle. He has several decisions within that to make though. Manuel Almunia has returned to full training and might consider this to be a stepping stone to regaining his place as Arsenal’s Number One.
However, Szczesney did nothing wrong at Newcastle once he had got over his initial nerves. It might be considered a slap in the face were he not to be selected for this fixture. Indeed, whilst Almunia needs the matches to regain sharpness, Szczesny merits inclusion. In the past, Wenger has used these fixtures to keep his goalkeeping No.2 in shape but at the moment, that position in the squad must be considered up for grabs.
Elsewhere tonight is the perfect opportunity to give Robin van Persie a start. Having warmed the bench recently and trained in the interim, the Dutchman needs a sharpner to be ready for the Premier and Champions League fixtures. Were that to happen, the front trio would not be out of place in either of the more senior competitions, presumably Bendtner and Walcott will start as well.
With those changes in mind, I would expect a line-up along the lines of:
Szczesny; Eboue, Djourou, Nordtveit, Gibbs; Denilson, Eastmond, Nasri; Walcott, Bendtner, van Persie
The more experienced members of the squad can be available on the bench. With Squillaci apparently suffering from knee-knack playing Djourou and Koscielny this evening makes little sense, the risk of injury should preclude the younger Frenchman’s involvement beyond a place on the bench.
Wenger observed that he was taking the tie seriously, that every competition was there to be won. Undoubtedly it is and looking at the remaining teams in this competition, the players Wenger has been using are more than a match for any of them if on top of their game.
It is the attitude which Arsene sought to emphasise:
I know their attitude is spot on, I know they have the quality
The win at Villa Park and more to the point, the overall performance, displayed the vastly overused hyperbole, of ‘character’. Mentally, the team were deflated by consecutive defeats but those cobwebs were shaken collectively and in fairness, the margin of victory should have been greater.
Whilst there is a media perception that the team is ‘brittle’, it is not necessarily the truth. Pulling defeat from the jaws of victory is not unique to Arsenal as Chelsea’s recent defeats prove. It is however, not fashionable to commend Arsenal and too many are ready to accept this as Gospel. Time for that to change.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it. ’til Tomorrow.