Reading preview: something to prove in different ways

I admit that I like the Rumbelows Milk Littlewoods Coca-Cola Carling Capital One Cup. Not because it’s the most prestigious tournament, not because it’s got the best players, but because it provides football we can watch without the stomach-churning pressure of every other game we play these days.

No doubt if we don’t get a result tonight it’ll be stockpiled, melted down and turned into some kind of bat with which to bash everything about everything, but given the team is likely to be a mix of experience (fringe in some cases) and raw talent it’s not a game that’s truly representative of our overall ability. That said, it’s a game in which you want to see players show their ability.

Those first teamers who haven’t played much this season, like Djourou, Arshavin, Koscielny and Chamakh (*cough*) get a chance to remind the manager of their quality, while it’s further playing time for the likes of Jenkinson, Miquel and others who aren’t exactly untried youth. But it’s the last group that make the Rumbelows Milk Littlewoods Coca-Cola Carling Capital One Cup exciting, for the most part. Seeing the potential stars of the future is simply fun, it’s kind of pure and just not laden down with the tons of bollocks that goes with everything else these days.

Although they might feel it, there’s no real pressure on these guys. Sure, they want to go out and prove to Arsene Wenger that they’re capable of playing for the Arsenal first team, that they’re ready to make their mark, but in terms of the result – even if we’re not playing one of the Premier League’s real big boys – they can’t really be held responsible for it.

As we’ve seen, shining in this competition is no guarantee of success. You think of someone like Carlos Vela, who scored hat-tricks, cheeky chips and caught the eye in a big way, but was unable to reproduce that when the games really counted. There have been others who have had the Quincy Factor down the years too, but there’s no doubt it’s a chance to experience first team football and catch the eye of a manager who is not afraid to give youth a chance when he feels it’s good enough.

Speaking of which, he’s been talking about young German, Serge Gnabry, who has been fast-tracked a bit this season and whose versatility could be a key factor in how often he’s used. He said:

He is a guy who can play in all the offensive positions. I think he could even play centre forward. He has a kind of efficiency in his game, and can get on the end of things.

He has big potential, creative potential, finishing potential. Serge is 17 years old and strong for a boy of that age.

Some will say it’s paucity of options that saw him chucked on against Norwich and Schalke, and to an extent that’s a fair point. I know every experience is a learning experience for a young player but expecting a kid of just 17 to come on and turn around two abysmal performances was rather too much to ask. All the same, he’s hardly going to be traumatised by it and it’s part and parcel of his development. I’m interested to see more of him, I have to say.

And while there are others bubbling under, I’m most looking forward to seeing the other German, Thomas Eisfeld. He signed from Borussia Dortmund last January and is now at an age (19) where he’s got to start playing more regularly for his development to continue. He looks to me, from the brief appearances we’ve seen, a mix between Arteta and Ljungberg. A tidy, technical attacking midfielder but he also seems to have the knack of good timing, of knowing when to arrive in the box, and that his name appears quite often on the scoresheet is evidence of that.

With the Arsenal midfield the way it is at the moment, you suspect a loan spell will be on the cards at some point this season – but how he performs in the Rumbelows Milk Littlewoods Coca-Cola Carling Capital One Cup might decide the level of the club he goes to. So, the combination of experience and youth, all of them with something to prove in one way or another, should hopefully bring about a decent performance tonight.

I can’t pretend to know too much about Reading or how they’re going to approach this, but I suspect they won’t be playing as many kids/reserves as us. A win over Arsenal, regardless of which flavour Arsenal it is, would provide them with the kind of confidence boost they could really use, so I think it’s going to be a stiff enough test this evening. Fingers crossed we come through it.

Elsewhere some other bits and pieces: the boss hails Andrei Arshavin’s professionalism. The Russian provided the cross which led to the chance which brought about the rebound which was stabbed home by Arteta from an offside position (hahaha, Hughes) against QPR, and with Gervinho out for a bit we see more of him than we would have. I don’t think it’s the beginning of a famous redemption, however, it strikes me the manager’s mind is pretty made up about him, but it’s a long season and needs must.

In this week’s Tactics Column, Anam looks at Aaron Ramsey and feels he should get a bit more credit for his displays this season. He’s a player who divides opinion, no question, but it’s worth reading whichever side of that particular fence you’re on.

And there’s good news ahead of Saturday’s game against United with Wojciech Szczesny returning to full training and in contention for a first team return. Amusingly, we ran this story on Arseblog News, only for it to turn up on goal.com a good 90 minutes later, almost word for word in some places, and labelled as an EXCLUSIVE. Wayneker.

Finally, remember we’ll have full live blog coverage of tonight’s game. That means up to the second text updates which you can follow on your browser, tablet, phone etc. It’s newly optimised for mobile too, so check back here around 7pm for another post with all the information and team news, or simply bookmark the default live blog page and updates will begin automatically.

Also, if you fancy betting on the game, Paddy Power will give you a £20 free bet if you sign up and bet £10. Simply click here to register.

And that’s just about that. Here’s to a good game later on, more here tomorrow.

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