After a successful start to the Premier League season, it’s time to switch gears to the League (Carabao) Cup. On Wednesday Arsenal travel to the King Power Stadium to take on Leicester City in the Third Round. At this point in the tournament there are only 32 teams remaining, so Arsenal are just five wins away from claiming a trophy.
However, we already know that a tie against Liverpool likely awaits, as the winner will travel to the victor of Liverpool vs. Lincoln City for the 4th Round. Last season Arsenal went out in the 5th round of the League Cup to Liverpool on penalties. The last time the Gunners lifted the League Cup was back in the 1992-93 season. In fact, Arsenal have won the competition just twice in the 60 years since it began.
It’s a crammed year, but this still remains the easiest/quickest way to a trophy - even if it does rank behind the Premier League, Europa League & FA Cup. So with three matches in just over a week, how might Mikel Arteta adjust the lineup and formation? Team news won’t be out until Tuesday afternoon, so we will operate with the injury report from the weekend, plus Tierney’s slight knock.
Predicted Starting XI
- Alexandre Lacazette
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
- Bukayo Saka
- Granit Xhaka
- Sead Kolasinac
- Bernd Leno
Notes on the XI:
- Rested: Rob Holding, Willian, Dani Ceballos, Hector Bellerin & Kieran Tierney (as it was a minor knock in warm-ups against West Ham).
- Injured: Sokratis, Emile Smith Rowe, Shkodran Mustafi, Pablo Mari, Gabriel Martinelli & Calum Chambers.
- Left out (transfer targets): Mattéo Guendouzi & Lucas Torreira.
- Arteta has favored the 3-back system, but Ozil doesn’t fit into that formation, and if Ozil doesn’t make the Carabao Cup, when will he feature? As such I’m going against the grain here by reverting back to the classic Arsenal formation of the past decade and rotating heavily to leave the majority of starters fresh for the Liverpool match next Monday.
- Nketiah, Pepe, Elneny, Willock, Luiz, Macey, Cedric, and Maitland-Niles seem like fairly safe picks. None of them started and Arteta would like to keep as many players match fit while resting those he can. It’s going to be a long season and injuries are only a matter of time. So that gives us eight, with three wild cards.
- The last time we saw Ozil it was June 25th and he stayed on the bench. The last time Mesut played for Arsenal was March 7th, in a 1-0 win over West Ham - Ozil provided the winning assist to Lacazette. While it’s still a long shot we see Mesut, I’d like to think that Arteta can find value for him in the schedule. Arsenal have so many matches crammed in a shorter window this season and Ozil can provide quality. Roll the dice.
- Reiss Nelson is now 3rd on the depth chart for the right sided attack role with Willian’s arrival. If he isn’t going out on loan he needs a match, but Pepe is likely starting as well. (Note: I’m hoping he stays, because the attack needs the depth this season to safeguard against injuries.) The two can sit on either side of Eddie, since Laca, Auba, Willian and Saka all started against West Ham.
- David Luiz appears fit, appearing on the bench this past weekend, so he likely gets the start on Wednesday, but who do you pair with him? Holding, Kolasinac & Gabriel all started the last match, and you’d think Arteta wants Holding and Gabriel ready for the Liverpool clash. There is no need to rush Tierney back in to a back three system, so why not have a senior debut for William Saliba, who played a full 90 for the U23s and looks fit.
- It’s very likely Arteta just sticks with the same system as the past few matches. Drop Ozil and toss in Gabriel, Holding or Kolasinac, it’s fairly straight forward. So are you taking the gamble on Ozil Wednesday or sticking with a back three?
How to watch
Wednesday (9/23) at 2:45 pm ET / 11:45 am PT on ESPN+.