Tomorrow Arsenal play their 9th match in 25 days. They have 5 more in the next three weeks. After that, mercifully, the fixture congestion comes to an end.
So far, Arsenal have managed the period pretty well. Yes, the draws to Southampton and West Ham last week were not great, but Arsene Wenger has done a solid job of rotating the squad and keeping everyone healthy (apart from Aaron Ramsey, who is out until January).
Tomorrow’s Carabao Cup quarterfinal against West Ham at the Emirates should feature a heavily rotated Arsenal lineup. Expect Arsene Wenger to deploy an eleven similar to those fielded for the Europa League. The lineup should include Theo Walcott who recently returned to training after a few weeks out due to illness. Shkodran Mustafi has also returned to training but is not expected to play.
The biggest question facing Arsene Wenger is whether to start or sit Jack Wilshere. The Englishman appears to be the preferred replacement for Aaron Ramsey in the first team midfield. Given Wilshere’s injury history and his importance to the team (at least until Ramsey returns) it makes sense to rest him. But he still needs games. He’s not up to full match sharpness and with critical matches against Liverpool and Chelsea on the horizon, working him back into form is important too. Ultimately, I think Wilshere sits because if he doesn’t, it would be 4 matches in 9 days for him, and I don’t think Wenger is comfortable with that large of a workload.
While Arsenal’s roster is basically fit for tomorrow, West Ham’s is not. David Moyes will be without Jose Fonte, Edimilson Fernandes, and Sam Byram due to injury and Manuel Lanzini due to a retroactive ban for simulation. Cheikhou Kouyate, Mark Noble, Pablo Zabaleta, and Marko Arnautovic are all doubtful due to injury. The Gunners will also face a different keeper tomorrow - Moyes announced that Joe Hart will get the start over Adrian. The only good news for the Hammers is that Andy Carroll may be available after missing several matches with a back injury.
Arsenal’s second string should beat a depleted West Ham side at the Emirates. Then again, we said the same thing last week about the first team’s chances away to West Ham. Sure keeping a shot at silverware alive would be nice, but at the end of the day, does anybody really care if the Gunners go out of the Carabao Cup?
WHAT: Arsenal vs. West Ham
WHERE: The Emirates, London
WHEN: Tuesday, December 19th 11:45 PT | 2:45 ET | 7:45 BST
US TV: Not televised. Streaming on ESPN 3 and the WatchESPN app.
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