We have some midweek action tonight when we take on Leeds in the Carabao Cup ‘Round of 16’.
This is an interesting competition this year because without any Europe its importance is increased. We used to have four trophies to play for, now we have three, and as such it’s going to be taken more seriously.
Nevertheless, I do expect some rotation from the manager for this one. It’s not even so much about resting players on the edge due to fatigue etc, but keeping others involved. Gabriel Martinelli, for example, hasn’t played a huge amount in the Premier League this season, so it’d good for him to get some minutes this evening. If you want to build up the match fitness of Alexandre Lacazette if you’re planning on using him more this season, maybe tonight would be a good way to do that.
Martin Odegaard and Nicolas Pepe were benched for Villa, and could get a chance to respond to that and in midfield Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Mohamed Elneny could probably do with some minutes just in case we need them at some point. It’s what we do at the back which might be most significant though. Bernd Leno will surely start, Rob Holding has barely played of late, Nuno Tavares ought to get another go at left back, and there are players like Cedric, Calum Chambers and Pablo Mari who will fancy a game.
It’s quite interesting because right now it feels like there’s a huge gap between our ‘first choice’ defensive players and those currently in the back-up roles. It’s probably unrealistic that we can go through the rest of the season without having to make some changes along the way because of injury/suspension etc, so keeping the others involved makes sense. They may well be super-motivated to do well and put some pressure on, but there are a couple at least who must realise their chances of regular first team football are basically gone bar some kind of crisis. That’s an awkward situation for players and managers, and something Arteta has to be mindful of.
We know what Leeds are about, and how they want to play, so we’ve got to be prepared for that. They won’t give us a moment’s peace, and while this may be dismissed as just a League Cup game, it’d be good to keep the bit of momentum going into the weekend. The most positive outcome is a win, some players on the fringes perform well enough to keep the regulars on their toes, and there’s a bit more confidence in the depth of the squad. Let’s see!
Arteta has also been talking about the connection between the team and the fans which has been solidified in recent weeks, after a particularly difficult start to the season:
“I was extremely pleased with that because I can now see that our supporters are starting to identify with what the team projects and that is very pleasing because at the end of the day we play for them, and you have to find the right purpose to do so.
“I think the players felt that connection behind them, it wasn’t just when scoring a goal, it was right from the beginning and right to the end and if we can generate that every single time we play at the Emirates, it’s very powerful for us and very difficult for the opponent.”
To be fair, I think the crowd did their bit to help a team low on confidence after the opening three games, and the team responded with the kind of energy and commitment that resonates with supporters. The freshness of the new players and those new faces has helped too, a factor I don’t think should be overlooked. There’s only so long you can see the same old guys doing the same old things and leave frustration aside to try and offer that ’12th man’ vibe from the stands.
Hopefully this is something which will continue throughout the season: and the main reason for that is it will require results and performances to be good. Every single fan who enters the stadium backs the team and wants them to win, but if we go on a terrible run, that will be reflected in their response too. Cup nights can be fun, but also a bit odd, so let’s hope we get that symbiosis of positive performance and crowd reaction later on.
Catch you later for the game.