Through a multitude of instances one can collectively describe only as "fate", Arsenal's initial foray in the Capital One Cup in the 2015/16 season is a much bigger and more interesting fixture than Arsene Wenger & Co. would have hoped for.
First off, the draw. The little pieces of torn paper drawn decided to pit North London Rivals Arsenal and Tottenham against each other at this early stage of the competition (Note: I'm assuming the Capital One Cup cannot afford ping pong balls). No matter the setting, a North London Derby always raises the stakes in a match.
Second, Arsenal's poor run of form. Historically, Wenger has played like he only wants to develop youngsters or give bench players some match time in the League Cup. However, coming off two straight somewhat embarrassing defeats, it seems that Wenger will be throwing a more experienced lineup out there with Aaron Ramsey, Per Mertesacker, Olivier Giroud, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Mikel Arteta all set to feature. While it's nearly impossible to make pronouncements on a team's season in September, suffice it to say three straight losses would not be good.
Next, you can't forget injuries! Thankfully, only one of Arsenal's top XI members, Francis Coquelin, is out injured. His should be a short-term absence too, according to reports. However, a match like this would have been a great opportunity for the likes of Danny Welbeck and Jack Wilshere, among others, to show they deserve more playing time. Injury prevention also throws a twist into things as Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, who both played 3 matches in the last week, will surely be rested. All of our other fit, non-suspended players will be involved. About that suspension...
Finally, in case you blacked out Saturday morning, Arsenal are missing a key player due to the Chelsea match. Santi Cazorla will miss Wednesday's derby due to Saturday's red card, further limiting Wenger's selection options. The combination of Wilshere being hurt, Santi being suspended, and Mesut Ozil being rested means Wenger has to choose between Oxlade-Chamberlain at the no. 10 position or Mathieu Flamini in the squad. I do not envy him. Luckily, Gabriel's suspension was lifted, allowing him to spell Laurent Koscielny.
I haven't been less sure of how a match will go in a long time. I guess that's the perverse beauty of the Capital One Cup? Spurs will surely rotate some, but this match means quite a bit to them too. It remains to be seen if Arsene Wenger rests Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal after the poor showings of Mathieu Debuchy and Kieran Gibbs last week in Zagreb. It will nice to see Per's steadying hand back in the XI, but that might not be enough to counterbalance a total rotation at the fullback positions. Regardless, I think an entertaining match is in store as both sides will be desperate to win.
Arsenal vs. Tottenham
Capital One Cup
White Hart Lane
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
Kickoff: 11:45 a.m. PDT / 2:45 p.m. EDT / 7:45 p.m. BT
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