It’s football day once again. Not something you would usually expect so soon, since Arsenal only last played on Sunday. Seemed to remember reading somewhere that the FA asked if we are comfortable with the schedule and we didn’t say no. So, no point pondering over that now. What will be clear though is the fact that since these 2 fixtures are so close to each other, those that played on Sunday will most likely not make this one.
I can tell you now that predicting the line-up for tonight is no easy task. As pointed out by YoungGunsBlog, there will be a few from the reserves who will be involved. Nico Yennaris is set to start while the likes of Vito Mannone, Sanchez Watt, Oguzhan Ozyakup, Chuks Aneke, Jernade Meade and Ryo Miyaichi will fill the spaces on the bench. With all that in mind, here’s my prediction on the line-up.
Oxlade Chamberlain—JY Park—Benayoun
With Kieran Gibbs not available until after Chelsea, we will probably play without any recognised fullbacks tonight. There’s been murmurs of Francis Coquelin reprising the right back in which he was entrusted with before his loan stint at Lorient but that story has now been squashed by Arsene Wenger who sees him as a midfielder.
Having the pair of Coquelin and Emmanuel Frimpong in midfield will give us a stronger defensive shield in front of our defence. Something which will be needed if my line-up choice is correct. Ignasi Miquel being played as a left back is slightly worrying, given pace is not one of his greatest attributes. Having Thomas Vermaelen alongside him will help ease some of the nerves of being played in an unfamiliar role.
However, playing Vermaelen is the biggest concern to me. Nothing to do with his quality as a defender as there’s no argument to his position as the best centre back in the Arsenal squad. More to do with his general fitness. He has only just come back from injury and if you take into account the lengthy lay-off last season, I think it represent a huge risk to start him in this match.
The Belgian captain is a vital component in our search for success and if it means being without him for another week but ensuring that he’s fit for the rest of the season, then it is a gamble worth taking. Not as if Johan Djourou has played plenty of games and could do with a run in a more central role. Vermaelen’s commitment means that he will play like usual in tonight’s game and he might over exert himself on his return.
I initially thought that Marouane Chamakh will get to play this fixture but after thinking about it and the fact that he played on Sunday for close to 65 minutes, I’m more inclined to think that Park Ju Young will now get the central berth. Wenger spoke about 3 central strikers and Park is mentioned within that group of three.
More than most, this signing seemed to have divided opinions. Some suggests that the signing was something that presents more of a commercial value than playing value. No one should be questioning how big the market in Asia is but it’s hardly valid when the player himself is the captain of South Korea national side.
There’s a period of acclimatisation required for any foreigners coming in to play in England. Add that to the fact that the player in front of Park in the pecking order is Robin Van Persie, a striker who’s in red hot form at the moment and it is easy to see why the Korean has not got much playing time. That’s not to say that Park is in poor form as he has plundered a quite a few in during the international matches.
Assuming I’m right on the selection of the front 3 of Park, Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain and Yossi Benayoun, they will be a very mobile group of attackers. Positions can be interchanged quite easily and it will be interesting to see. If it doesn’t work, then there’s still the pacy option of Miyaichi on the bench.
Owen Coyle looks likely to bring a relatively strong Bolton side to the Grove tonight. His immediate concern is of course in the Premier League where his side are still in the relegation zone with only 2 wins this season. On one hand, a win tonight should give his side the confidence boost to get out of their current rut. On the other hand, Coyle might be affording some players the rest so as to concentrate on climbing the league table.
Wenger says he takes this competition seriously and he really should. Not because of the fact that we’ve not won any trophy for any X amount of years. But mostly because the competition for trophies in England has become fiercer in recent times. Manchester City’s rise and Andre Villas Boas trying to get his hands on at least a trophy to prevent from getting the sack, should make this season’s competition harder to win than usual.
What I mean is that there are more teams who are capable of winning trophies this season and it is not only limited to those I’ve mentioned. No club wants to finish with empty hands at the end of the season. Some might look at cup competition like this one and think they have a better chance of winning it than other competitions. Winning the Carling Cup might represent something of value once again.
Up The Arsenal!!!