Tonight sees a very interesting match-up in the Carling Cup between Arsenal and Newcastle United.
It will be a tough game at St James’ Park, so the announcement from the manager that Theo Walcott, Laurent Koscielny and Nicklas Bendtner, among others, will be back in the starting team is most welcome.
Carling Cup teams are always something of a lottery but judging from all of the comments that Arsene Wenger has made I expect to see a line-up similar in strength to the one that thrashed Spurs at White Hart Lane.
In goals Wojciech Szczesny gets a chance as a result of Manuel Almunia’s never-ending “injury”, while the back four is likely to feature Emmanuel Eboue, the returning Laurent Koscielny, Johan Djourou and Kieran Gibbs. The manager has been quick to downplay the hype of Szczesny in goals, who was viewed to be some sort of cross between Jesus and James Dean when everybody was panicking earlier in the season.
In midfield Jack Wilshere will serve the second part of his three-game ban and both Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri will be rested. As a result I expect Denilson, Abou Diaby (does anyone know why he missed the City game?) and Henri Lansbury to start behind a front three of Carlos Vela, Nicklas Bendtner and Theo Walcott.
It’s a very strong team and if the manager chooses to add a little more experience it wouldn’t be unfeasible to see Tomas Rosicky or Alex Song start as well.
I’ve read some articles that say Wenger has abandoned his youth policy for the Carling Cup – yet I don’t think that’s quite right. I simply believe a combination of more depth, less injuries and above all else, the fact that our squad is getting older as the real reasons for these conclusions.
If we assume that the team I’ve named is correct then it means just two of the starting eleven from the City game will start tonight. It is remarkably encouraging. I think it underlines our depth and the growth of players like Bendtner, Walcott and Gibbs, while the inclusion of players like Szczesny and Lansbury indicate that this is still a competition where the fringe players will get an opportunity to show what they can do.
I’m particularly excited about tonight’s game because of the impressive performance in the previous round. Newcastle away from home will be just as tough a fixture as Spurs at White Hart Lane, perhaps even more-so given the importance our opponents will place on this competition, and it should be a cracking contest.
I’m tipping us to win, just as we did on Sunday, and if we do get past Newcastle then there is a very real chance that we may finally end up with a trophy this season. One step at a time, though.
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