Mancini To Devalue Competition By Playing Kids…
Manchester City arrive at The Emirates for the Carling Cup quarter-finals. It is, if you believe the hype, already decided. The petrodollars have created the squad that will end all squads in the English game. Rarely does football live up to the hype.
If they progress, City will be the first team since Middlesbrough in January 2004 to win a League Cup tie at Arsenal. Indeed it has been nine years since Arsenal lost a League Cup tie in November. In view of the teams that Wenger has sometimes fielded, that is a testament to a strength in depth that is all too often dismissed as being non-existent. No, it is not in the same league as City’s – metaphorically speaking before some pedant points out that we are in their league – since we have neither the financial capacity for the fees or wages; neither do they but the Arsenal squad is nowhere near as bad as is often stated. The apparent benchmark for this seems to be what happens when the whole of your strongest first XI is out and meets the best club in the land, who by happy coincidence, happen to be fielding their strongest XI.
And tonight, there must be a winner. It is the eighth meeting between the two teams in this competition. The first a goalless draw at Maine Road was followed by six Arsenal victories, a run interrupted in December 2009 by City’s 3-0 win. Two survivors from that night would expect to play, whilst Alex Song is unlikely to make an appearance. Lukasz Fabianski and Tomas Rosicky have both been the subject of transfer speculation with the Pole wanting first team football and Wolfsburg want to bring the Czech back to the Bundesliga. Both have understandable reasons for wanting to go but then again, the fickle hand of fate could make them regret such a move in January. Arsenal’s injury record suggests either or both may yet get their chance this season.
Like Arsenal, City will make changes. Speculation is rife that Nasri, Clichy and Toure will return to The Emirates. Respect for them is being urged; perhaps abuse is inspirational to them but what of apathy? I don’t care about any of that trio aside from their actions in this or any other 90 minutes against Arsenal for whatever club they play for. Whether they reflect in time that they should not have left the club is irrelevant. They did, they have gone and a collective “Meh” when their names are read out is all that is deserved.
Mancini has been complaining that he may play ‘kids’ this evening as City only played on Sunday; I thought that was the point of the squad system? Gone are the manic days where players were expected to turn out 65 times a season or clubs were expected to play 7 games in 19 days including two cup finals within the space of 4 days. Come back when you really have something to complain about. As it is, with a squad that has cost somewhere close to £500m to buy, do not complain or whinge. If, at the end of this season, you can afford to offload 20 players without blinking an eye, does that not tell you that you have enough players to cope with this situation?
For Arsenal, I would be surprised if more than a couple of players who started against Fulham, do so tonight. Arshavin is promising to play himself back into form which is a problem that Marouane Chamakh might be able to relate to. Both are significantly better than their contributions this season and are in somewhat of a chicken and egg situation; they want to play themselves back into form but cannot get into the team because they are out of form. Matches such as tonight’s in that sense offer the opportunity of redemption; defeat might be for the longer term benefit were those two to recover their ‘mojo’.
Others, such as Benayoun, have the opportunity to show why they were signed. A squad player at Chelsea and Liverpool, he must have signed knowing a similar outcome was likely at Arsenal. That does not mean he is a bad player or waste of space; no club functions without strong back-up. At the other end of the scale, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is learning his trade with opportunities such as this – and probably Olimipiacos – allowing him to do so at what might be a natural pace.
I would expect the line-up to be something like,
Fabianski; Djourou, Squillaci, Koscielny, Yennaris; Coquelin, Frimpong, Benayoun; Chamberlain, Chamakh, Park
The training photos on the official site indicate Gervinho will be in the squad but it seems to me that like Arshavin, he would come from the bench if needed. Bearing in mind that extra time is playable, some may get more than the regulation 65 minutes this evening.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it. ’til Tomorrow.