In recent years, and in its many incarnations, the League Cup has provided our club the opportunity to field our crop of exciting youngsters as in terms of priority, it falls behind other forms of silverware.
The League Cup has enjoyed a revival in recent years, and as such, the percentage of first team players has risen accordingly, but the starlets grabbing the attention of Arsene have still looked upon this competition as their best chance to make a mark on first team plans.
Fans also look forward to seeing the next potential wunderkind take to the pitch, and the lower ticket prices never harm attendances, but this season may see an experience-laden team take on Nottingham Forest in our first outing in the EFL Cup.
This is a double-edged sword. It is to the detriment of our youngsters hoping to get a taste of the limelight – and tougher opposition to gauge their progress – but it also means that our squad is probably healthier and heavier in number than it has been in many a year.
You cannot have both.
So, the lineup for this fixture should see a raft of more experienced players, rather than a large swathe of Reserve players.
David Ospina played last week against PSG in the Champions League and did his prospects no harm whatsoever with a virtuoso performance which kept the Gunners in the game. The Colombian should be back in the side for this game.
In terms of defence, Rob Holding is another who can look forward to a return to the team, and alongside the young defender from Bolton, Brazilian Gabriel may make his return from injury – he was crocked in the first game of the season – and could be Holding’s partner in the middle of the backline.
Our depth continues in defence. Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal are expected to be rested, so Mathieu Debuchy and Kieran Gibbs are the able deputies that will get the nod to play, and hopefully send a timely reminder to the Boss that they can be relied upon.
In midfield, there are a myriad of options Wenger can call upon, but Mohamed Elneny, Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Gedion Zelalem and Chris Willock will be looking to at least get a sniff of the pitch.
Many of the youngsters trained with the first team yesterday, and this may give a hint towards who will be at least named on the bench.
Alongside the kids named above, goalkeeper Matt Macey, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Krystian Bielik, Ben Sheaf, Stephy Mavididi, Emile Smith-Rowe, Josh DaSilva and Reiss Nelson were the others lucky enough to be included alongside the first team stars. More than a few won’t be named, but the difference in the lineup for this game compared to our 4-1 win over Hull City will be remarkable.
Gooners travelling to the City Ground will not only be viewing Arsenal’s future on the pitch, it appears that they may get a prolonged viewing of new signing Lucas Perez. The Spaniard has been used sparingly, but this seems the perfect time for the former Deportivo man to hit the ground running and attempt to acclimatise himself. Chuba Akpom will be vying with him for the striker slot, and hopefully face off against some former teammates from when he was on loan at the club for a short time in 2015.
In keeping with the theme of returning to former clubs, there will be a very familiar face in the opposition colours.
‘Lord’ Nicklas Bendtner joined Forest in the last transfer window, and is already off the mark for the season. The big Dane left Arsenal in 2014, and went to VFL Wolfsburg for two years, before finding himself in the Championship. Another former Gunner – Henri Lansbury, could also play against his former side.
We should be more than aware of his strengths, but hopefully he will get a decent reception from the away boys.
Last seasons League Cup exploits need to be exorcised. The 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Sheffield Wednesday still smarts upon recollection, and whilst there are far more important targets this season, this is still a competition that Wenger has not won in his long tenure with Arsenal.
First thing is first – a win away from home, and some promising displays from the benchwarmers and shining talents on display is highest on the agenda.
Picking a lineup is difficult, but:
Ospina, Debuchy, Gabriel, Holding, Gibbs, Elneny, Coquelin, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Iwobi, Perez, Akpom
Predicted Score – 3-0 Arsenal.