Archive for September 22nd, 2009

Carling Cup Preview: The ones we’ll be watching

1 comment September 22nd, 2009

Jack Wilshere will be in first-team action tonight

Yesterday I strolled down to the Emirates Stadium to pick up a ticket for tonight’s Carling Cup clash with one of the Chamionship pace-setters, West Brom.  The sun was shining and the stadium looked in fine nick – it’s always nice to go down to the ground at a quieter moment and marvel at just what an awesome structure it is.  Indeed, if anything it’s improving, thanks to the ongoing (but awfully named) ‘Arsenalisation’ process.

Tonight I will return there, this time anticipating seeing Arsenal’s youngsters get their first run out of the season.

Polish keeper Wojciech Szczesny, who infamously broke both arms in a training ground accident, will make his debut in goal aged just nineteen.  He’s very well thought of at the club, and it was a close call between he and Vito Mannone as to who would step in to the first-team in the absence of Manuel Almunia.

The centre of defence is likely to contain the side’s most experienced players, with Mikael Silvestre and Philippe Senderos both primed for their first starts of the season.  Kieran Gibbs should fill one full-back slot, with Gavin Hoyte and Kerrea Gilbert (remember him?!), both returned from loan spells elsewhere, competing for the other.

Ahead of that we’re likely to see the first XI’s 4-3-3 formation replicated, with Mark Randall, Aaron Ramsey and Fran Merida the men boys most likely to deployed in the centre of the park.  Some expected Randall to move on this summer but he’s stuck it out and will be looking to build on strong displays last year against Sheffield United and Wigan.  Ramsey and Merida are both on the fringes of the first-team and will be looking to show Arsene Wenger they deserve consideration in games of greater significance.

The wingers are bound to bring plenty of excitement to the game: Armand Traore returns from his loan spell from Portsmouth on the left-hand side, full of pace, tricks, and explosive shooting.  On the right is the lad who will receieve top billing on the night: Jack Wilshere.  Unlike last season where he was something of an unknown quantity, he comes into this evening’s game as star in the making, with all that brings with it – pressure, man-marking, and kicks from rugged Championship defenders (not that West Brom have too many of those).

Upfront, the enthralling Mexican Carlos Vela is expected to make his first appearance of the season after an ankle injury. His goals lit up this competition last year, so it’ll be great to see him in action again.

Having already been included in a Champions League squad, you’d back Sanchez Watt is Vela’s main competition to be the lone front-runner.  And run he will – pace is Watt’s main attribute, allowing him to burst into the channels and cause havoc in the opposition backline.  He’s not the sort of striker who’ll hold the ball up and bring others into play with his back to goal – he’ll be looking to latch on to incisive balls from the likes of Merida and Wilshere and do damage in behind.

There are others in contention for a spot in the team: reserve captain and towering centre-back Kyle Bartley, Dutch schemer Nacer Barazite, young French holding midfielder Francis Coquelin, and his striking compatriot Gilles Sunu will all fancy a crack at West Brom.

I love the Carling Cup.  The kids always put a show on, and there’s something enchanting about a team of young lads, out there working hard against senior pros in a bid to put together a performance that might just the catalyst to a top-flight career.

If you’re at a loose end in town tonight, pop down to the box office and grab a ticket.  West Brom are a good footballing side too, so I fancy this evening’s game might prove to be very easy on the eye.  Furthermore, should one of these kids ever make it big (and I’d venture that a couple certainly will), you’ll be able to say you saw them play in the flesh right at the beginning of it all.

Failing that, a central defensive partnership of Silvestre and Senderos might provide some light relief.

Come on the Young Guns.

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