How much change will we see for the Carabao Cup tie?
Preparing for the third round clash, the main talking point centres around the number of changes Mikel Arteta could make to his Arsenal team.
There is some leeway in his thinking, with the Gunners not playing again for five days as they travel to Liverpool on Monday evening. Still, it’s fair to say that we can expect a good number of changes for the King Power Stadium clash, as squad rotation and season priorities will come into play.
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He’ll never admit it, but the Carabao Cup is almost an unwelcome distraction to Arteta. Winning the trophy is, without doubt, lowest down on his list of targets this season – although it will act as a good opportunity to give fringe players valuable minutes.
Look, the target this season is returning to the Champions League. Simple as that. Lifting the Carabao Cup would be another trophy to add to the cabinet, but you won’t find one single supporter who’d favour being glorious in this competition over returning to Europe’s elite competition. If you exist, I’d like to hear from you.
Given all of the above, here is who should, and could, start for Arsenal as they take on Leicester on Wednesday night. Maybe even a change of shape?
Goalkeeper – Matt Macey
With just two senior appearances under his belt for Arsenal, this may be a surprising inclusion. Bernd Leno is more than capable of playing every week, but without any new goalkeeper coming in to replace Emiliano Martinez (yet), perhaps it’s time to see whether the gigantic stopper has what it takes to be our backup.
Right-Back – Cedric Soares
This is why we bought him, right? Never going to be regularly fighting for a starting berth, Cedric has come in as a squad player to ease the workload that Hector Bellerin would otherwise be facing. On his day he can have great quality, and is a solid if uninspiring right-back.
Centre-Back – William Saliba
Who would be excited for this? Saliba has yet to play any part in the two league fixtures, therefore if he is going to be integrated at some point then the Carabao Cup is the ideal place to kick that off. On the right hand side of the back three is where he should play, which will offer a good indication of where he is in his development.
Centre-Back – Rob Holding
It would be tempting to put David Luiz in here if he’s back fit, but the likelihood is that the Brazilian will return for the Liverpool clash. With Rob Holding, getting him playing regularly is the best way to build up his confidence, which he will need as other players come back from injury and threaten taking his spot in the side.
Left-Back – Sead Kolasinac
I can hear the collective groans. Don’t worry, they’re mutual. However, the options are thin and there is no way that Kieran Tierney should be risked when it’s Anfield to come after. If anything, hopefully a solid display from the Bosnian will help boost his price tag up before the end of the window. Sorry, he’s not good enough. But for now we’ll make do.
Central Midfielder – Joe Willock
With practically every other midfielder at the club linked with a move away from the club this summer, the fact that Joe Willock’s name has been left out of the headlines offers a good indication of his role this season. Remarkably, no player made more appearances than the 21-year-old last season. Hopefully he can prove his worth in 2020/21.
Central Midfielder – Mohamed Elneny
Will offer the balance in the centre of the park that allows Willock to venture forward more often, and is now a less worrying member of any starting lineup. Previously, seeing Elneny’s name on the teamsheet was cause for concern, but he’s at least proved some doubters wrong with a couple of solid outings.
Right Winger – Reiss Nelson
Another player who has yet to even make the bench so far in the Premier League, the Carabao Cup, early rounds of the FA Cup and Europa League group stages will be where Nelson gets the chance to stake a claim for a more regular role. Pushed even further down the pecking order with the arrival of Willian, he’ll need to prove his worth or he could even be loaned out this summer.
Attacking Midfielder – Mesut Ozil
Ermm, who? This space would be reserved for Emile Smith Rowe, but given his injury the spot will be left open for Mesut Ozil. How likely is this to happen? Not very, if I’m honest, but the potential to change the shape up for this Leicester tie could give the German a chance to silence any doubters – the boss key among them. Honestly, why not?
Left Winger – Bukayo Saka
Given that Ainsley Maitland-Niles‘ defensive discipline is greater than Saka’s, that means he’ll get the nod against Liverpool. Due to that, we could see our number seven return to the fold in the left-winger role he’s become more accustomed to.
Striker – Eddie Nketiah
The hero against West Ham will get the nod from the start on Wednesday, giving Alexandre Lacazette time to rest and also because he’s such a wonderfully exciting prospect. There is also the small fact that they’re the only two strikers in the squad available. Nevertheless, Nketiah will lead the line in what is expected to be a very young starting XI.