Arsenal’s busy run of fixtures continues on Wednesday with a Carabao Cup third round tie with Championship side Brentford. The Bees sit seventh in the table, only 3 points off the pace and 1 point off a promotion playoff spot. The Gunners have won 5 straight in all competitions after dropping their opening two matches of the campaign. The two clubs have only faced each other twelve times, with the last meeting coming 71 years ago, so not much predictive value there.
Many were left scratching their heads after Unai Emery selected a starting lineup (and substitutes) comprised of predominately first team starters for last week’s Europa League clash with Vorskla Poltava. Will the manager do the same for Wednesday’s Carabao Cup tie? I’d wager not both because of the tricky Watford fixture at the weekend and because of the (perceived, at least on my part) relative lack of importance of the Carabao Cup in general.
Reports are that one or both of Emile Smith Rowe and Eddie Nketiah should see significant minutes on Wednesday. After his fantastic performance against Vorskla, I’d expect Alex Iwobi to start - he may even be deployed as Arsenal’s central playmaker.
Arsenal were looking a bit thin defensively after Sokratis and Konstantinos Mavropanos were both injured at the weekend. Sokratis is expected to be available to face Watford; Mavropanos is expected to miss four weeks. Fortunately, Sead Kolasinac and Carl Jenkinson both returned to full training on Tuesday and could feature. The Gunners will be without the services of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who picked up an ankle knock against Vorskla. The Armenian should be fit for the weekend.
I’ve always been conflicted about the correct approach to the Carabao Cup. On the one hand, it is the least prestigious competition in which Arsenal participate, and I’d rather top players rest for the league. On the other, it offers a chance to win silverware and do so early in the season, which can buoy spirits at the club, relieve pressure, etc. It’s also a great opportunity for guys like Smith Rowe and Nketiah to develop by playing meaningful minutes as opposed to in youth matches and training ground scrimmages.
If you pressed me for an answer it would be this — I’d be happy to see Arsenal continue on in the competition, I’d love to see them win it, but I won’t be upset if they go out. How do you feel about it?
WHAT: Arsenal vs. Brentford
WHEN: Thursday September 26th, 2018 11:45 AM PT | 2:45 PM ET | 7:45 PM BT
WHERE: Emirates Stadium
US TV: Not broadcast. Streaming on ESPN+. ESPN is offering a 7-day free trial of the streaming service, after which it costs $4.99 a month. I am an ESPN+ subscriber and think it’s a pretty good deal - you get a lot of content and some deep cut match-ups / sports.
For all your international streaming needs, check out livesoccer.tv. Please do not discuss links to illegal streams here.