80% normal but it’s still the youngsters who excite

So Carling Cup action tonight and the change of focus that we’ve spoken about earlier was apparent yesterday when the boss said we’d be going with the ‘core of the first team‘.

It means guys like Gibbs, Eboue, Koscielny, Rosicky, Walcott, Bendtner, Vela and probably Denilson and Djourou will all start. Despite my belief that the Carling Cup has been a good competition in which to blood young talent it does make more sense this time around to keep the first team squad match sharp. It’ll allow players like Bendtner and Walcott, who are coming back from injury, a chance to get all important minutes under their belt, while for the others it’s a way for them to show the manager they’re not just making up the numbers.

That said, there’s still going to be some youth involvement and for me that does make this competition a bit more interesting. If 80% of the team is going be first team then that leaves room for one or two of the youngsters to make their mark. Even if we have come up short in recent seasons there’s no doubt this competition has provided us with some wonderful entertainment and allowed us to gauge the readiness of some younger players. It’s good that we’re not losing that altogether.

We know that Wojscez©® is going to play tonight, going into the game with the assurance from Arsene that he is now the third choice keeper at the club. He’s been quite happy to talk the talk now we get to see if he can put his money where his mouth is. The manager is urging caution, saying:

He can show he is a good keeper and I believe he is one but there again let’s not make stars before they have proven they are. He has the talent, he has a good attitude and let’s see his performance in the games.

And that’s the bottom line really. It’s easy to talk a good game, it’s an entirely different thing to go out and perform, but he looks like a confident lad, his displays for Brentford on loan last season were eye-catching and a good showing tonight will do everyone good. He knows it’s a big chance but a perfectly ordinary performance would be just fine.

The boss has also been talking up Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, saying:

He is a massive talent, unbelievable in front of goal, in the box, outside the box. It’s down to how far he wants to go.

And that qualification of his talent is interesting. He did much the same before the Carling Cup tie at White Hart Lane. He spoke about what a good player he was but also how he needed to show hunger and quality. As his youth team friends Wilshere and Lansbury impressed and played the 120 minutes JET was sent out, on his own, to warm up for the whole of extra time. He jogged up and down the sideline in front of the emptying stands, just watching on. He was not required.

To me that was quite deliberate, the manager telling him that for all his talent, and anyone who has seen this lad can tell you he’s got it by the bucketload, he’s got to do more if he wants to get into the first team. To be fair to him he’s responded, in the reserve games he’s played he’s scored 8 goals in 5 games, Arsene says he’s knocking at the door ‘with both hands’, so it will be interesting to see if he gets a chance tonight. With Walcott and Bendtner sure-fire starters it means its between himself and Carlos Vela, I reckon, and the manager’s selection could be telling.

I suspect he’ll go for the Mexican but I have to admit I’d like to see JET get a go. If you had to choose the player with the most obvious future at the club it’s not Vela who has been unable to make the first team squad for a few weeks now and just doesn’t seem to be progressing. The boss might be inclined to give him another chance in his favourite tournament though. If he doesn’t play well he’s got Jay itching to come on and desperate for a game.

The more obvious outfield starter from the youth ranks is Henri Lansbury. He scored the opener in the last round against Sp*rs and it’s clear he’s well thought of by the boss, who says:

I like Henri because of his attitude, his desire, his determination. He is a Ray Parlour type. A guy who has a good team attitude, goes for the challenges, endless engine and has the timing to get the box and can finish. He’s shown that at Sp*rs. He is one of the players I want to keep at the club.

I do like the look of him, I have to say, and having witnessed Jack Wilshere make the most of his chance when it came this season, it’ll be really interesting to see if the youngsters who are given an opportunity tonight can do likewise. With the change in attitude towards this competition they’ll know that if they don’t perform that there’s going to be some strength on the bench, ready and able to step in and take over.

For their part Newcastle put out Chelsea in the last round so even if they’ll have one eye on this weekend’s derby against Sunderland there should be no underestimating them. They’ve done well since coming back up so we’re going to have to be on our toes. As we’ve said previously there’s a real chance of silverware in this competition and I’m glad to see we’re going for it. Kick-off tonight is 7.45.

In other news The Sun reports on a contract extension offer for Andrei Arshavin but rather lets itself down by saying the Russian’s agent is Dennis Lachter. Didn’t he and the Leningrad Lilliputian split up ages ago?

And I know someone from Wolves called Jizz Poxy has been mouthing off about Arsene Wenger but then does anyone really care what someone from Wolves thinks? I thought as much. Best off not reacting and giving whoever Jizz Poxy is the oxygen of publicity.

Right, that’ll have to do for now. Here’s to a fun night in Newcastle later on. Till tomorrow.

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