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Carabao Cup: Arsenal vs. Nottingham Forest - Predicted Starting XI & Bench

The march towards the historic Carabao Cup trophy

Arsenal FC v Aston Villa - Premier League Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images

Arsenal are quickly back to work tomorrow after Sunday’s dramatic comeback. Down a man and a goal, the Gunners rallied to score three and jump up into fourth in the table. But just about 48 hours later Arsenal are back in action as they enter the Carabao Cup (League Cup).

Arsenal have won the League Cup twice, 1986–87 and 1992–93. Last season they beat Brentford and then Blackpool before falling 2-0 to Tottenham in the Quarterfinals. Arsenal enter this year’s tournament in the third round hosting Nottingham Forest who beat Fleetwood Town 1-0 in the first round and then Derby County 3-0 to reach this stage.

Winning the Premier League seems well out of Arsenal’s reach at the moment, but the Europa League, FA Cup, and Carabao Cup are all possible. Unai Emery needs a trophy and a positive season to remain the Arsenal manager come the summer.

Considering the short turnaround from Sunday’s Premier League clash and the need to get more players in the squad match time, Emery needs a heavy rotation on Tuesday. Check out the predicted starting XI in the gallery below:

Notes on the XI

  • Gabriel Martinelli - He hasn’t gotten much time with the first team or the U23s, so this match is tailor made for a start to see how Arsenal’s depth chart is between Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang/Alexandre Lacazette and then U23 level of Folarin Balogun.
  • Bukayo Saka - Has looked impressive in the last two matches. Should get another start here and likely rotated out for Manchester United.
  • Mesut Ozil - Didn’t play Sunday, the match is at home, this has to be an Ozil match, if ever.
  • Reiss Nelson - Looked sharp in the opening two matches of the season, but fell out of favor as Pepe worked into the starting XI. The Cup offers a chance for Nelson to get out on the attack and push for more starts in the Europa League.
  • Joe Willock - Came on late Sunday, should be fresh for Tuesday and will help manage the middle of the park as Ozil floats in the attack.
  • Granit Xhaka - (ducks) Hear me out first. Yes, Xhaka has struggled this year. But it’s better if he plays against Nottingham Forest than Manchester United. This allows Emery to rest Mattéo Guendouzi, Lucas Torreira, and Dani Ceballos for that match.
  • Tolaji Bola - This is a trouble spot. Sead Kolasinac went the full 90 Sunday and Kieran Tierney isn’t fit enough to start yet. Bola has started several matches for the U23s at left back this season. Time for his first senior start.
  • Shkodran Mustafi - Looked competent in Germany last week and needs game time to rebuild his confidence. Plus Arsenal need to keep rotating centerbacks until every is back healthy.
  • Konstantinos Mavropanos - Went the full 90 for the U23s last Friday and should be ready for his return to the first team.
  • Calum Chambers - With Ainsley Maitland-Niles suspended after his red card Sunday (as that carries over into this competition), Chambers is the best option on the right. We don’t yet know the severity of AMN’s injury, but even if Chambers needs to start against Manchester United he’ll have five days rest in between matches.
  • Emiliano Martinez - Had a terrific match against Eintracht Frankfurt and appears to be a solid #2 for Arsenal. Should start most Cup and Europa matches this season.


  1. Bernd Leno
  2. Emile Smith Rowe
  3. Lucas Torreira
  4. Dani Ceballos
  5. David Luiz
  6. Folarin Balogun
  7. Robbie Burton

This may be a bit too conservative with Rob Holding, but I’d prefer to have him, Hector Bellerin, and Kieran Tierney play against the Liverpool U23s this week, keep them out of consideration for the match against Manchester United and look for a return after that.

How to watch

Tuesday (9/24) at 2:45 pm ET / 11:45 am PT on ESPN+. If you haven’t already signed up for ESPN+, you can do that here for $4.99 a month, which for everything ESPN+ has (not just soccer, but so much soccer!) is an amazing deal. The entire Carabao Cup will be aired on ESPN+, along with MLS, Serie A, USL Championship, USL League One, UEFA Nations League matches, EFL Championship games, etc.

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