Carabao Cup a chance for Rob to get hold of a first team spot

Carabao Cup action tonight as we take on Brentford at the Emirates. They’re currently lying 7th in the Championship, so while this is lower league opposition, it’s not going to be a walk in the park or anything like it.

One only needs to look at Manchester United’s elimination last night to … hahahaha … hahahahahaha …. their Castles made of Sand … Mourinho’s face afterwards … hahaha … sorry, got a little carried away there, but in this crazy old world of ours, you have to take your laughs where you can get them. Anyway, the serious point is that United got beaten by Derby, currently one place above Brentford in the table, so we need to be careful not to take this one for granted this evening.

All the same, it does appear as if Unai Emery is going to pick a young-ish team for tonight, giving chances to some of the kids who are knocking on the first team door. He says:

One possibility is to give the players who are playing less in one competition to take minutes and this responsibility going forward. We were preparing in pre-season with the young players and every player to give them a chance to show us their confidence and performance

maybe the young players can have opportunities to play in this game if I think it’s the best for us to give them this opportunity of starting in the first XI, but the first thing about the best performance is thinking about winning.

So while he changed things around in the Europa League, there was still enough experience to fill the team and tonight it sounds like he might go a bit younger. I assume Bernd Leno will start in goal again, while in defence he’s got some thinking to do. An injury to Konstantinos Mavropanos means we’re down to just two fit senior central defenders – Rob Holding and Shkodran Mustafi – and although Sokratis is expected to be fit for the weekend, would it be too much of a risk to play Mustafi, just in case?

Young Spaniard Julio Pleguezuelo has been training with the first team and could be an option, while at left back Nacho Monreal might need a break so it remains to be seen if Sead Kolasinac’s return to first team training means he’s in contention tonight. If not, Emery might have to find another solution for that position, or trust in the robustness and stamina of Monreal.

In midfield Matteo Guendouzi and Mohamed Elneny could support Emile Smith Rowe in the ‘Ramsey role’, or even Joe Willock could allow the latter to be part of a front three with Danny Welbeck and Eddie Nketiah. The young striker made his name last season in this competition against Championship opposition so it’d be good to see him get another chance tonight.

I’ll be perfectly honest and admit my interest in the Carabao Cup this season is absolutely minimal. I think we’ve got enough on our plate between the Premier League and Europe to keep us going, but where we can have some fun with it is the deployment of young players to see how ready they are and how they perform. There’s always something nice about an academy talent shining so hopefully we see a bit of that tonight.

With our defensive issues this season, it was also interesting to hear Emery say he views this game – along with the Europa League – as a chance for Rob Holding to force his way into the first team reckoning. He says of tonight’s encounter:

It’s also a good opportunity for Holding to continue taking confidence, taking minutes and taking also our ideas of playing and I want to look at him also with our best performance, staying in the first XI.

His English has improved but sometimes still takes a bit of thinking about! Anyway, I think the point is that if Holding plays well, he’ll be considered for our ‘first’ team, which I take as a positive. Right now I think the boss is playing it relatively safe by picking his two most experienced central defenders, but the issue is that one of them has – so far this season at least – got a blooper in him every game, sometimes more.

I would be all on for Holding to partner Sokratis at the expense of Mustafi, but it feels like Emery needs to see a bit more of the 23 year old to be fully convinced that’s a change he should make. I thought he was very good against Vorskla, not culpable in either of the goals we conceded, and when he came on for the Greek international against Everton on Sunday he slotted in very well. Another good showing tonight and he’ll definitely start to put pressure on the German, and that’s a good thing in my book, because while 95% of what Mustafi does is fine, the frequency of that other 5% demands attention.

What the Mavropanos injury does highlight though is how light we are at centre-half, at least until Laurent Koscielny returns from injury. Even then we’re not sure how that serious Achilles problem is going to affect him, and there was probably a good reason this summer why we were chasing two central defenders, Sokratis + 1, but ultimately the Borussia Dortmund man was the only arrival. It was a bit of a gamble from our recruitment team, especially when they sanctioned the Calum Chambers loan to Fulham, so let’s hope they don’t regret not making that second deal (or being unable to make it for other reasons).

Right, we should be able to find a stream later on, so we’ll have a live blog for this game later on, and all the post-match stuff over on Arseblog News.

Until then have a good one.