The usual five talking points ahead of this evening’s League quarter final at home against Tottenham
Will Emery play his first choice eleven?
Probably not, although one expects through a mixture of the quality of the opposition and Arsenal’s injury woes that this will be stronger than any League Cup or Europa League line-up this season. In some ways, it may be a blessing in disguise that the unbeaten run has ended, as wanting to maintain that would place added pressure on Unai Emery. My guess is that all of the (fit) players that started at Southampton will be in the squad, but that the bench will be very strong. One thing’s for sure though. After the experience of December 2nd, the new head coach will be in no doubt that this game matters to the fans, regardless of which competition its played in.
Do Spurs have greater strength in depth?
Even without the current injury crisis at Arsenal, there is an argument to say that overall, Mauricio Pochettino has more options, and he’s never been reluctant to rotate, even for Premier League matches, such is the faith he has in his supposed second stringers. You can’t argue that Spurs had a huge match last midweek against Barcelona, and had to work hard at the weekend to get a last minute victory over Burnley. So there is good reason for the manager to give his own main men a rest, especially with the festive programme of games about to get into full swing. I reckon the big names will be on the bench, but that’s not to take their replacements lightly.
Sokratis is back, which should bolster the backline. I’m not certain whether or not a third game in seven days would be seen as ideal for Laurent Koscielny, so I suspect who partners Sokratis will be dependent on fitness tests for Mustafi and Kolasinac. If both are passed fit to play, then we might see a back three including Monreal, and Kolasinac as the wing back on one side, and Carl Jenkinson on the right wing. Ainsley Maitland-Niles should get the nod in midfield, possibly alongside Torreira. I reckon the three attacking players might be Ozil, Ramsey and Lacazette, with a bench featuring Martinez (expect Cech to start), Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan, Xhaka, Guendouzi, Koscielny and Lichtsteiner. I think that for this game, given the importance to the supporters, the youngsters will be sitting this one out.
A full house
This game is sold out, but unlike other cup competitions, season ticket holders actually have to buy their seat. Which means those who had no interest in attending will not be noticed via their empty seats. So, given the odd no show for illness or some other unforeseen event, it will be a packed Emirates to get behind the team. The ticket prices of course help, with no-one paying more than £20. There will also be over 5,000 away fans, as opposed to the 3,000 issued for Premier League matches, so I expect a heavy police presence.
Straight to penalties… and VAR
VAR is being used in this competition where a Premier League side is at home, although why this doesn’t apply when one is away to a lower division side is one for the tech people to answer. More significantly though, is that there is no extra time. Ties go straight to a penalty shoot-out after 90 minutes. It’s a far cry from the days when, for example, Arsenal played Liverpool three times before their 3rd Round League Cup tie in the 1988/89 season was finally settled at Villa Park. To think, it won’t be long before we have a generation that have no concept what a replay is…
Only being able to hazard a guess at the two sides, this is a tough game to predict. You can almost be certain Arsenal will concede, that’s almost a given. But I can’t bring myself to predict defeat. So let’s say 2-2, with the Gunners going through on penalties. I think we’d all take that one now, although it wouldn’t be good for the nerves. I do also hope that there is as little trouble as possible with the sheers number of visiting supporters. One suspects the police may be in for a busy evening.
If you fancy a flutter…
If you fancy a flutter…
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