As before every match, even EFL matches that may not mean as much as others, there are many questions to consider leading up to kickoff. Let's go through a few of them before the kickoff at City Ground versus Nottingham Forest and attempt to answer them.
Which youth players might get a run tonight?
Last night saw Arsenal's U23 team get demolished 5-0 to Everton's U23, which in its own right should generate separate and tough questions to consider. In this exercise, though, the focus is on the kids who didn't suit up last night.
Yassin Fortune continues to miss time due to injury, so the notable exclusions from last night's youth match are Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Gedion Zelalem, and Chris Willock. Expect these three, and probably Krystian Bielik, to feature.
Will we see Gabriel's return tonight?
Gabriel's injury in the preseason made Shkodran Mustafi's eventual purchase that more urgent, since the Brazilian went down shortly after Per Mertesacker's knee injury that ruled him out for most of this season. Gabriel's performances on the pitch haven't elicited calls for his regular inclusion in the starting eleven, and he's facing a situation where Mustafi and Laurent Koscielny have quickly gelled and played quite well together.
Arsene Wenger noted in his press conference yesterday that Gabriel might start today following his injury recovery, and this would be the perfect match to get him some game minutes, preferably alongside Rob Holding.
If Gabriel is going to force himself into serious conversations regarding the preferred center back partnership at Arsenal, he's will need to show much more composed shifts in competitive matches. Tonight's a good place for him to start.
Who will Arsene Wenger name in the midfield?
This has been the topic de jour around these parts and elsewhere for quite some time now, and for valid reasons. Aaron Ramsey's injury in the Liverpool match has forced Wenger into his 'break glass in case of emergency' midfield pairing of Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin, leaving new signing Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny on the bench to start the last few matches.
However, Xhaka made quite the statement for his inclusion in the starting lineup by putting in a quality substitute performance away at Hull City last weekend that saw him score a 35 yard screamer in the dying minutes of the match, capped off by a curious goal celebration that many have interpreted quite differently.
This weekend sees Chelsea visiting, and with the way the league has started off getting early, maximum points is almost more essential than ever. It's expected Wenger will rotate tonight in anticipation of this weekend's match, so who he names as his midfielders tonight will go a long ways towards seeing who he wants to line up versus Antonio Conte's men. While the hope is we see more Xhaka than before, it's probably best to see a lineup tonight that doesn't include his name on it.
Do you even care about the results of this match?
The EFL Cup is, far and away, the least important of the competitions, one that the club has used to gain match exposure to youth players and veterans needing game experience.
So what if Arsenal come out and get stomped by Forest? Will that bother you, even if the fixture list clears up?