Personally, I love the Carabao Cup tournament. Not only does it mean mid-week football in September, but it’s a chance to weigh the stock of your reserves and mix them in with a few first team players to help their development. When Arsenal were paired against Doncaster at home, I circled the date on the calendar and knew this would be a game we would see some of the players we were impressed with over the preseason. No disrespect to Doncaster, but 51 teams separate the two sides in the current standings of English football.
For that reason, this game seemed to be more about the Arsenal depth chart than the result at times. With arguably 9 players on the “B Team” competing to move up in the ranks, who are the winners and losers from the match?
Loser: Calum Chambers (& Arsenal’s Defensive Depth)
This one really sucked. Chambers showed well in the first half. It was no question his loan move increased his stock on the Arsenal team sheet this season. He was quick to tackle, always in a good position, and effectively shut down a Doncaster side with no answers in the first half.
So why is he a loser? An aggravated hip injury saw the Englishman give way to Josh DaSilva (more on him soon) at the half. After such a good showing, he will be out until after the next international break. Wenger has struggled with defense, as his side wasn’t able to produce a clean sheet between Western Sydney in late July and our home match against Bournemouth two weeks back. We hadn’t seen Chambers much thus far in the Premier League because he has been trying to get back to full health. Wenger said in a press conference that Chambers had “recurrence of a hip problem” that prevented the fans from seeing him get more minutes. After the international break, we may see more of Chambers in the Premier League and Europa League. Until then, the defense will have to do what they can with what they have.
Loser: Reiss Nelson
Hard to call him a loser, but with the absolute genius Nelson showed in the preseason I was fully expecting him to control this game throughout. I didn’t see that presence that was displayed during the summer. At the time he was subbed off for Iwobi in the 84th minute, I felt I wanted to see more from the teenager in terms of efficiency. I believe the best academy player on the pitch was Maitland-Niles, which was unexpected with Reiss on the field.
There were times where Nelson tried dribbling out of the Arsenal 18 and found himself being dispossessed. I didn’t see a time where he completed a cross. He was struggling with the physicality of Doncaster when defending. These will actions will likely be punished against the higher prestige opponents. Not to mention, he was bailed out by Ainsley after making a poor mistake with no man behind him, shown here in this 4k high definition video replay:
Kante = b-tec Maitland-Niles pic.twitter.com/u84aMFkEDX— Oscar (@Clinicalzette) September 20, 2017
This was good experience for the lad, but I cannot say he helped his stock in terms of being included in the first team. A start for the first team and minutes with Alexis will certainly pay dividends to his development. This kid will be a star one day, there is no doubt about that. But I have to say, I was expecting a similar game to the match he had against Benfica in the Emirates Cup. Nothing to be worried about though, he is still the best player on the U23’s in my opinion and should see himself in the Premier League this year at least once or twice. Oh right, he’s also 17 years old and playing against men 10 years old than him.
Planning on getting his jersey at the start of next season as he turns into the next Neymar.
Loser: Francis Coquelin
Being sidelined with a hamstring injury is a terrible experience for a player and their club, just asked Barcelona. Coquelin’s hamstring means he is watching games in street clothes from the likes of a luxury box or his living room. Coquelin needed to have a good start to the year after a poor 2016/17 season. The low point being 9 completed passes in 77 minutes as a central midfielder against Bayern in a game I don’t want to talk much more about.
Coquelin is already battling for the fourth spot in the midfield. Elneny and Wilshere’s performances yesterday have to leave the Frenchman worried about his place in the depth chart. Coquelin is a good defensive player, but Arsenal’s midfield needs a more attacking vibe to yield success. The midfielders didn’t miss a beat against Doncaster and it could spell danger for Coquelin’s future. That being said, I am sure Coquelin is quite experienced in competing for his position and having this many options is a good problem for Arsenal to have.
And while I don’t find injuries particularly funny, his form on this is one I couldn’t help but laugh at. Best of luck in the recovery though, Francis!
No harm to him but that Coquelin injury is honestly one of the funniest things I've ever seen on a football pitch.pic.twitter.com/dJcIkgwzk9— Conor McLaughlin (@CMcLaughlin84) September 10, 2017
Winner: Jack Wilshere
Jack decided to put down the smokes and fight for his place in the first team this season. I couldn’t be happier about this for two reasons.
- This mentality is rare among the bigger clubs, and I love the fact he will fight for a place in a team rather than take the easy way out.
- I still remember the day he picked apart Barcelona in a 2-1 win at the Emirates.
Jack showed me that he has glimpses of the teenager we saw boss the Catalonia side. He was sharp getting to the ball, used his body extraordinarily well in possession, and tied together the midfield with Elneny for all 90 minutes. A 35 yard firecracker was parried away at the last moment would’ve been one to remember. He teed up Giroud for one hell of a bicycle kick that struck the woodwork. The best part for me, a huge Wilshere fan, is that this was the first 90 minutes he played in the Arsenal shirt for quite sometime.
I know it was just a Carabao Cup match, but I really think he displayed what Arsenal have been lacking in the middle third this season and last. Here are all his touches from the match:
Winner: Ainsley Maitland-Niles
I’ll ask the question again: Is there a better first name than Ainsley? If so, I haven’t heard it yet.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles (“AMN”) has been given the role of taking over Arsenal’s three-name player as Oxlade-Chamberlain departed to Liverpool (lol). After what I deemed a poor preseason from the youngster, he showed me the ability I have heard about for years.
AMN was all over the pitch yesterday. He was connecting crosses, making runs, dribbling well, bailing Arsenal’s defense out of bad situations. As I said above, it was surprising to me that he was the best academy player on the field yesterday. It surprised me even more that I thought he was the best player on the pitch. Wenger recently mentioned that this batch of youngsters could be his most talented group, and Ainsley is a primary reason for that belief. He showed well against Cologne, had a great game against Doncaster. He may be slated for a role player this year in other competitions. More appearances like yesterday and he will leave other players worrying about their job security.
Winner: Joe Willock and Joshua DaSilva
A first appearance with the senior side tells me that these lads are winners. A momentous occasion for the youngsters, and something that will fill their confidence as they continue to enhance their skills in the academy.
DaSilva has been with Arsenal since he was 8. An attacker according to the Arsenal academy website, DaSilva looked stable playing defender last night. Arsenal have given him time at a variety of outfield positions over the years, making him a versatile and educated player in all aspects of the game. Good with both feet and large in stature, DaSilva seems to be the 10-position player for the U-21 side. More minutes in these matches could see DaSilva become a common name at the Emirates.
Willock is one hell of a midfielder with the vision, mindset, and discipline to become a regular here in a few seasons for Arsenal. He and his brothers are all with high profile clubs, and the 3 of them continue to show their bloodline will be well known throughout Europe in a few years.
Young in age and filled with talent, Willock and DaSilva should be incredibly proud of their appearances last night. Hoping to see more of both them, Nketiah, and a forgotten Reine-Adelaide in the Norwich tie in late October. DaSilva turns 19 a day before that tie. What are the odds he makes an appearance as a gift from Wenger?
Here are some highlights of both DaSilva and Willock’s ability.