I have genuine mixed feelings about the tough away tie at the Hawthorns tomorrow night. In the past, unlike with the FA Cup, I have relished the opportunity to see our manager blood youngsters in the League Cup and also offer the chance for those in the first team squad, on the fringes, to press their claim.
However, with injury woes and on the back of 2 Premier League defeats, and limp, toothless displays, Arteta and his team simply must win against a highflying Championship title contender. Heading to the home of the Champions this weekend, having suffered the ignominy of exiting a cup, at a stage that Arsenal have not even entered at this century is unthinkable.
It was these thoughts yesterday that promoted this Twitter Poll, and he fact that over 5000 voted suggests it is not only my mind the selection dilemma is playing on. The question was whether Arteta needed to play his first team against WBA or play the usual blend of kids and fringe. Interestingly over 63% feel the under-pressure Arsenal manager cannot take risks and has to go for a strong team for the Midlands trip.
Much as I want to see Azeez and Patino I think Arteta simply has to go full strength on Wednesday.
— Dave Seager (@goonerdave66) August 23, 2021
Of course, the truth will probably be somewhere in between, and many of he comments suggested so. The Spaniard is fortunate perhaps that he does have players who are or could easily first team starters available to start at the Hawthorns, who were not available against Chelsea. Certainly, Aaron Ramsdale and Martin Odegaard will come in, and with goal threat minimal so far this season, Aubameyang and Lacazette will surely be involved. Bukayo Saka too, still looks rusty and leggy so needs the game time, if not for the whole 90.
Whilst not a huge fan of Aubameyang on the left, I think he will start there with Lacazette, assuming he has recovered, starting through the middle. Odegaard will come in at 10, allowing his relationship with Saka, back on the right that worked well last season to be renewed. I think Arteta can give Nuno Tavares a first start at left back, resting Tierney, and the Portuguese can rampage on the left allowing his captain to play closer to Lacazette, relieved of creative left-wing responsibility.
As was the case last season, with our left back being so advanced, I believe Arteta, will ask Xhaka to continue on the left of the double pivot, and he will ask Elneny to partner the Swiss, to rest Lokonga. I would be happy is the role went to Maitland-Niles, but I can’t see it. This is where in normal circumstances we would all have hoped to see Miguel Azeez, play with an experienced partner, but I think the circumstances mean the exciting youngster will have to make do with the bench. If things go well, we can hope to see him in the second half.
Assuming Gabriel is still not fit and White out with COVid, it will be Mari and Holding again but I think if he does select Tavares, he will counter-balance that by playing Chambers over Cedric or Bellerin, so Chambers can make it a back three when required. West Brom are operating with a 343 so Furlong and Townsend as wingbacks so both Saka, which he failed to do on occasions versus Chelsea and Aubameyang, if they are our wide players, will have to support their full backs.
I hope aside from Azeez, we might see one or two other youngsters on the bench, such as Taylor-Hart and Rekik, but I am not holding my breath on that. If we win through, perhaps we might get a more favourable draw, and with confidence higher, we can see the youth blended in.
Passionate fifty-something Arsenal supporter who has been making the journey to N5 regularly since the early 1980s – although his first game was in 1976. Always passionate when talking about The Arsenal, Dave decided to send a guest blog to Gunnersphere in the summer of 2011 and has not stopped writing about the Gunners since.
He set up his own site – 1 Nil Down 2 One Up – in February 2012, which he moved on in 2016 to concentrate on freelance writing and building Gunners Town, which he launched with Paul in 2014.
The objective of GT was to be new and fresh and to give a platform for likeminded passionate Arsenal fans wishing to write about their team. Dave still of course, writes for the site himself and advises the ever-changing writing crew.