Happy League Cup eve my friends. Should be a cracker. It’s finally a chance to rest all our major names, and thankfully this year, there’s literally no need to even have them on the bench.
Southampton will be a tough game, but you’d imagine they’ll be resting players too with their European committments. So it’s a battle of the reserves, and let’s be fair here, we’d should be having the best reserve team. Or will we? Because Southampton have an exceptional production line of hero children that have filtered to us and other major clubs around the world.
It’s super important Arsenal take advantage of this breather because we have a devilish December ahead and we’ll be needing our best players fresher than a Brick Lane beigel.
The good news is the fixtures sit nicely for us if you look at them closely enough.
Firstly, tomorrow’s game is at home. Literally no reason to go all Ozil / Sanchez on the squad. Our back 4 can be completely subbed out. I want to see Holding, Gabriel, Gibbs and maybe Maitland-Niles. Midfield could be Ramsey, Elneney (assuming Coq will be back for West Ham) with Iwobi in at #10. Up front, we could see Perez through the middle, flanked by Chamberlain and Jeff. That’s a pretty decent team if you ask me.
If we go full steam rotation there, the good news is West Ham also have a tough quarter final game. No preparation for them. They play United at Old Trafford just after playing United at Old Trafford. I’d imagine they’ll go for that game to get a win under their belt. Hopefully they’ll earn a draw and the game will go to extra time. Making them nice and leggy for the early match against Arsenal on Saturday.
We then have Basel away, and this is the litmus test for Wenger… will he take his 92% chance of qualifying opportunity and send a reserve squad over there. Or will he do a Wenger, and play all his favourites? It’s an important chance to get some breathing space for key players.
Our game at home the following weekend is against Stoke, where he can bring back the full squad. He then has to make a decision because he has two rampantly tough games against Everton and City away from home. Does he rest players against Stoke and go hell for leather against Everton and City? Those two teams can be rattled by power and pace… we’ve seen City beaten by an agressive press from Spurs and they could be there for the taking. We’ve also seen Everton’s aging defence spanked out the park by beastly Chelsea.
If we can take 2 points from those two games, we have West Brom Boxing Day. They have United before us, followed by a week of preparation for them to face us. But they have a fixture pile up after that includes Southampton away and Hull at home. Much more winnable games for a team that’ll be eager to hoover up the low hanging points over an important December for a team that can easily find itself in a relegation battle.
Our next fixture crunch up is with Palace and Bournemouth, played within 2 days of each other. Both games look good for the win because, as happens most Christmas periods, the smaller clubs don’t have the squads to deal with the intensity of fixtures. So they’ll have to make decisions. Go for it against Arsenal, or save your batteries for the easier game in the 3 day period. Palace have Swansea 2 days after us, a 6 pointer for them. Bournemouth have Swansea before us, a game they have more chance winning in.
So the stars are alligning for us with the fixture list… but, we know Arsene Wenger is more than capable of making terrible decisions that impact fitness and performance, so I won’t hold my breath. But if we can come out of this 7 game period (Prem) with 15 points, we’ll be in an incredible position. If we come out of it with 12, it’d still be pretty good going and be a massive positive for the new year. Anything less than that and I’d worry.
ALL TO PLAY FOR. Getting excited about probablities is the best.
Have a great day.