Saturday, September 23, 2023

Bolton/Carling Cup preview

Good morning from a much wetter than usual, but not as wet as when I went to bed, Dublin. It all got a bit mental here yesterday evening. Heavy rain, rivers bursting their banks, a strange man rounding up two of every animal. Where I live turned from a quiet road into a 2 foot deep river.

Thankfully everything outside seems to be back to normal now, if a little damp, so we can look ahead to tonight’s Carling Cup game against Bolton. As per usual there’ll be serious rotation of the squad but Arsene says that’s part of the Carling Cup experience and that it doesn’t mean we don’t take the competition seriously:

We use it as an opportunity to give a chance to some young players and people relate that to not taking it seriously but it is the opposite. Because we take it seriously we want to always offer two things – the desire to win and the opportunity for our fans to see some of the players who represent the future for this club.

Players like Fabianski, Benayoun, Rosicky, Chamakh, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Frimpong and Coquelin should all get a run-out tonight and there’s even the suggestion that Thomas Vermaelen could make his comeback, which would be great to see. There might even be a place for the highly regarded youngster Chuks Aneke. I assume when the manager goes on record comparing a player to Yaya Toure he’s talking about the good side of Kolo’s brother and isn’t planning on sending Aneke around half a dozen vaguely European clubs before he comes good.

Another man likely to play tonight is Ju Young Park, whose only other involvement was in the last round of this competition against Shrewsbury. Despite the manager’s obvious reluctance to use him since he says the South Korean captain will come good:

Some players like Pires and Henry took four, five, six months and they became exceptional players. Park arrived two months ago so that’s normal.

Some people judged our players very quickly in a negative way and slowly they changed their mind through their performances. I prefer it that way round than the other. Some players make you jump off your seat in the early stages and then disappoint you after. These players will win over all the sceptical people and Park is one of them.

I guess the difference with Pires and Henry though is that they played every week, thus growing used to the game here – and surely for Park to grow accustomed to English football he’d actually need to spend some time on the pitch. I can’t imagine the adaptation to England is what’s holding him back. He’s already a long, long way from home so I don’t think a move from the south of France to the south of England is too much for a guy of 26 to deal with.

Tonight, clearly, is a big chance for him and I hope he takes it. While we talk about the need for somebody to aid Robin van Persie, we’re reliant on the players we have in the squad at the moment. January is one thing but there are plenty of games until then. And I kinda like the way Arsene is comparing him to an album you listen to and don’t really like at first, but after a few more goes it becomes a favourite, a grower, if you will. You might also choose to speculate about who he’s talking about when he mentions players who come in and excite from the off but then fade away, but let’s see what Park can do tonight should he start the game.

Another youngster who has done well when given a chance is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. He’s scored twice, in the Carling Cup and in the Champions League but, with the manager perhaps mindful of overplaying a youngster who is still developing, he’s not been in recent squads. I suspect it’s probably more to do with our circumstances and needing as much experience in the team as possible. The boss has spoken about The Ox’s need to learn certain aspects of the game, but tonight will give him another chance to show the manager that despite that he’s a player who can make an impact. Arsene says:

Alex has talent mixed with a relaxed, positive attitude. I like that in him, he is a positive boy and I think he will be loved by people because he has that up-front attitude. That shows that he deals well with the pressure. He is now getting to a level where we want him to be and he has an opportunity now to show again that he wants to compete for a place as a regular starter.

He needs to add urgency to his game in the final third, on the defensive side and winning the duels against men. You need that capability to go from youth-team football or lower-level football to be a top-level athlete in the Premier League.

I can’t imagine Bolton’s team will be quite as different from its Premier League XI as ours so it’ll be a real test for the boys tonight. There’s no mainstream TV coverage so at this point I can’t tell you if there’ll be a live blog or not. I believe Arsenal Player are showing the game in full tonight post-final whistle, so that may be the best option. Again, it’s clear that clubs, and ruling bodies, are missing a trick here. How many people would happily pay a fiver to watch this game in full via a good quality live stream?

Anyway, fingers crossed for a decent result tonight, not because there’s huge stock placed in the Carling Cup, but when you’re under pressure as we have been, and when you’re relying on the same players week in, week out, it’s good to give them a rest and provide a chance for the other players to show what they’re made of. Let’s hope tonight we see that.

In other news, Gervinho talks about van Persie and hopes he stays at the club. Blimey, he might as well start an Arsenal blog with that kind of attitude.

Finally, and speaking of Arsenal blogs, it’s rare one comes along that does something different, so do have a poke around The Arsenal Collective. No analysis, no teeth-gnashing, no hysterics, just pieces which remind us why it is we’re fans of the Arsenal. And it’s a site you can contribute to as well. Check it.

Right, that’s that. Back tomorrow with some analysis, teeth-gnashing and hysterics. Especially if we’ve won!

Till then.

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