A draw against opposition of Man City’s calibre in the Quarter-Finals of the Carling Cup presented Arsene with something of a selection dilemma. Arsene may have been toying with the idea of including some of the first-team in tonight’s tie. A somewhat lacklustre display against Fulham at the weekend will have banished that thought from his mind. He’ll want to give the regulars a rest, so it’ll be a combination of reserves and youngsters on display tonight.
At his press conference yesterday, Arsene said:
“I believe that some players are on the fringe of being really limited. I will rest some players but I still want to play a team that has a chance to win the game. For example, players like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Emmanuel Frimpong will play but I consider them to be first-team players. I have 90% decided. There is still 10% flexibility.”
Those two are likely to be joined by fellow Young Guns Francis Coquelin and Ignasi Miquel. Experience will come from the likes of Lukasz Fabianski, Johan Djourou, Sebastien Squillaci, and Park Chu-Young.
Yossi Benayoun will also be afforded a rare start, and the manager has moved to praise a player whose opportunities have been limited by competition:
“He has been absolutely fantastic but we have so much choice in midfield and we play with three strikers.
The chances for the midfielders are not so big and that’s why he has not played as much as he deserves.”
Benayoun’s versatility and work ethic make him a really useful option both from the bench and when Arsene sees fit to rotate. His age and pay packet mean he’s unlikely to be offered a permanent deal at the end of this season, but that only makes his professionalism in the mean-time all the more commendable.
Abou Diaby will also play, making his first start of the season. We’ve been here so many times before that it’s difficult to get too excited about his latest comeback. One feels that a good performance would only signal another false dawn before his problematic ankle returns to plague him. I think we just have to accept that his will be a career dogged by injuries, and enjoy the fleeting glimpses we do see of a player who is undeniably talented. If we use him sparingly he could be an excellent option over the winter months, and allow the likes of Arteta and Ramsey a well-deserved rest.
UPDATE: I’m being told Diaby is in fact already injured again. So more his latest setback than latest comeback. Dear dear.
City will rest players too, but their absurdly bloated squad will mean that they’ll have plenty of talent at their disposal. The likes of Kolo Toure, Nigel De Jong, Adam Johnson and Edin Dzeko were all on the bench on Sunday and should start tonight.
In other matters, Matt Law of The Express says Arsenal were scouting Lukas Podolski at the weekend. Podolski’s versatility makes him an intriguing option, and he’d provide more prolific back-up for Robin van Persie than either Chamakh or Park. However, Raphael Hongistein swiftly pointed out that confirmed Arsenal target Marco Reus was also playing in the game, so perhaps he was the main object of our attention.
Finally, thanks to Charlton Athletic (featuring Ian Wright’s son, Bradley) for beating Huddersfield last night and thus ending their unbeaten run at 43 games. Our 49-game streak remains intact, and the Invincibles remain immortal.
Right. Very little would be funnier than seeing our Reserves beat moneybags Man City. So Come On You Gunners.