Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Coventry preview: a mixed-up motivated team

Morning all. Still raining. Ugh.

There’s football tonight though as we play Coventry in the Poetic Anal Cup, and the manager is set to ring the changes as you’d expect. As well as giving some youngsters a chance of first team action, there’ll be some senior, experienced players in there who haven’t yet featured this season. Johan Djourou, Andrei Arshavin, and Andre Santos are among those who will get a run out tonight, with the participation of others like Squillaci and Chamakh not even certain.

But as always with this competition it’s the youngsters who people are most keen to see and with no live TV coverage, coupled with the ticketing policy, it’s part of the reason this game has been a sell-out. It might be the least prestigious of the four competitions we’re in but it has provided some great nights of footballing entertainment as the next generation show their stuff.

Arsene says of tonight’s team:

We want to put out a talented side that has a good chance to win the game. We will give a chance to some players who have not played as many games recently. The players that did not play on Sunday will get a chance and it’s a good opportunity for them to show they can do well.

And of some of the youngsters who are potentially involved:

Hector Bellerin, Kris Olsson, Serge Gnabry, Nico Yennaris and Craig Eastmond. All these players could have an opportunity to play. Ignasi Miquel will play. We will have a good mixture of experience and professional top-class players.

Miquel will partner Johan Djourou at the centre of defence, Yennaris will probably play at right back, while we’ll have to wait and see with most of the others. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will play in the centre of midfield, I suspect, and it’ll be interesting to see if Olivier Giroud is involved tonight. There are those who’d say it’s pointless playing him in this competition but I don’t think it’d do any harm at all. The pressure on him to score is lessened by the fact the team are playing well and getting results, so if this allows him to get the monkey off his back then all the better.

I reckon we could see a line-up like this: Martinez – Yennaris – Djourou – Miquel – Santos – Coquelin – Eastmond – Oxlade-Chamberlain – Arshavin – Walcott – Giroud

Andrei Arshavin’s Arsenal career has hit the skids, it’s fair to say, and tonight is a chance to remind people he can contribute this season. The Russian was linked with moves away while the transfer window was open, and Arsenal were very willing to accommodate a transfer, but his desire to stay in London means he’s still with us. It is rather a sign of how far he’s fallen that he’s playing in this competition having not even made the squad for the last two games, but the manager says he’s up for it:

At the moment he’s a victim of the high level of competition that exists for places. He has a huge respect from everybody in the dressing room, and especially from the staff. I feel he’s unhappy that he doesn’t play because deeply he loves football and he practices every day with 100 per cent commitment. I’m happy to give him some competition on Wednesday night.

We shall see, and it’ll be interesting to see where he plays. I imagine the usual position on the left but it is possible that he’s handed Cazorla’s role with the Ox wide. Conversely, as one Arsenal career winds down, the manager is talking up the potential of the young German, Serge Gnabry. He says:

Serge Gnabry is a great hope for the future, I rate him highly. If he continues his development, I think he could play in the first team this season. At the moment he needs to work and ensure he remains fit.

He is in the category of Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott – guys who have great power, great pace and good dribbling skills. He has goalscoring potential and good vision as well for the final ball. He can play centrally behind the striker or on the flanks.

Even before the season began the whispers suggested that Gnabry was the one most likely to be fast-tracked to the first team and when he gets on tonight it’ll be a test for him to see how he fits in and how he looks against more seasoned professionals. It’s hardly sink or swim at this stage but it’s always interesting to see how the top rated youngsters fare when thrust into first team action. Catching the eye in this competition is no guarantee of success by any means, ask Carlos Vela or Fran Merida, but it does no harm either.

The comparisons to Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain, who were given chances while still very young, suggests  that this is a player in the manager’s thoughts and a good cup run could be the thing to push him closer to the first team squad on a regular basis. Good luck to him.

As always the boss will be looking for the senior players to guide the youngsters through the game and having players like Santos, Djourou and Walcott in there, guys who have something to prove, should give us the edge. No player likes to sit on the bench and the only way to show the manager you’re ready and able is by taking the chances when they come your way. So I’d imagine those guys, along with Giroud up front, will be well and truly up for this one, which should make for a good game from our point of view.

Due to the lack of TV coverage, and thus a genuine dearth of streaming options, I don’t think there’s any chance of a live blog tonight but if I do find something we’ll give it a bash. Keep an on Twitter for updates, if there are any. There’s live audio from Arsenal Player and that might have to do, something of a throwback but there’s always plenty of excitement listening to radio comms only.

Anyway, if you’re going tonight, enjoy it. Come on you reds. Till tomorrow.


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