Carabao Cup 2nd Round West Brom v Arsenal
Tonight Arsenal have a game against West Bromwich Albion in the second round of the Carabao Cup. I can’t remember the last time we had to play in the 2nd round of the league cup, but suffice to say it was around 25 years ago. In the years gone by, we’d have had little or no interest in the game, just assuming that the academy team Arsene Wenger would send out to face the opposition in the early stages of the league cup would do us proud and invariably they did.
This season is different though. We now have to send out the strongest team possible to win this game. Mikel Arteta’s side are bereft of confidence and he’s under mounting pressure by the day. Who would have thought that Arsenal would be in the league cup 2nd round and it would be a must win game a few seasons ago? I’m going to the match tomorrow evening with my three sons who are all Gooners and I fully expect to be watching a full strength team. Lose and who knows, my boys and I may be witnessing Arteta’s last game in charge.
Due to the terrible results we had in the first part of last season 2020/21, we don’t have any European football this season. This means that we have just 2 pieces of silverware to go for this season realistically and this Carabao Cup is one of them. If we have a good cup run in both competitions, then we will still only have around 50 matches to play this season. When you put it that way, there’s no excuse for Mikel Arteta not to play his strongest side possible in every single game this season to go all out to win the two cups, just as we did the last time we won the league cup in 1993 under George Graham.
Injuries and covid aside, if I was Mikel Arteta and I was battling to save my job, but more importantly, battling to save the reputation of Arsenal FC, I’d be wanting to win the cups (which each bring with them some form of European football next season too don’t forget) and finish as high as possible in the league. He’ll only be able to do this by playing his strongest line up in each game and at the same time, the young side and the new players will be able to get used to playing together week in week out, thus building those partnerships on the pitch. The more they play together, the better the understandings they’ll build amongst each other.
The fear I have at the moment, is that when Thomas Partey is back, in September, the player he’s going to be replacing in the side is the exciting Albert Sambi Lakonga rather than Granit Xhaka. I’m sure I’m speaking for a big majority of fans when I say that the one bright spark of the first disappointing two games has been Sambi.
He’s really impressed with his positivity on the ball, his keen eye for a forward pass and his overall confidence. He’s still raw of course and he’s got to learn more about cutting off the passing lanes of the opponents, but that will come with experience. Sadly however I believe that as soon as Thomas is back, he’s going to be the one who steps down which will put the brakes on him getting that experience I just mentioned. Just imagine what a learning curve he would have playing real time Premier League football alongside Thomas Partey?! We’d all love to see it as a partnership I’m sure.
Unfortunately, Granit Xhaka has hardly ever been dropped by any of the former or current Managers he’s ever played under, plus the fact (he’s announced himself) that he’s signed a contract extension, only strengthens the fact that he is going to be the first name on the team sheet once again this season. I’m not criticising Granit Xhaka believe it or not, he’s certainly not been playing badly over the last season, but we just want to see something different right? We want to watch more exciting football, we want to see younger, fresher, hungrier players on the pitch, making a name for themselves and putting a marker down.
I’m not sure what team my sons and I will be watching tomorrow, but I just hope for the sake of Arsenal Football Club and the season as a whole, that I’m not going to be witnessing Mikel Arteta’s last match in charge.