After two straight one-nil victories in the Premier League, Arsenal are quickly up into 13th place and finding their footing this season. Now the team shifts their attention to the Carabao (League) Cup as the competition heads into the fourth round with 32 clubs remaining. The match offers Mikel Arteta a great chance to rotate in several new players and rest key stars before the clash with Tottenham at the weekend.
Arsenal will take on League One’s AFC Wimbledon on Wednesday, who have a quite remarkable story. Make sure to catch this match’s Q&A article where we dove into the club’s history, rise up the pyramid, and how this season is going for the Dons. An Arsenal win will not only put them into the final 16 but mark the fourth win in their last five matches as they approach the North London Derby. A much better place than the situation heading into the most recent international break. So who should get the start in the Cup?
- Aaron Ramsdale
- Calum Chambers
- Ben White
- Thomas Partey
- Sead Kolasinac
- Martin Odegaard
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
- Eddie Nketiah
- Folarin Balogun
- Left Out: Arthur Okonkwo, Gabriel (rested), Takehiro Tomiyasu (rested), Bukayo Saka (rested) & Kieran Tierney (rested)
- Out: Mohamed Elneny (hamstring) & Granit Xhaka (red card)
- Coming off two wins, playing at home against a League One side, and knowing that the Tottenham match is in just a few days Mikel Arteta should rotate the squad heavily and even rest some of the players completely out of the matchday squad. It could be any combination, but personally, I’d save Tierney, Gabriel, Tomiyasu, and Saka as there are ample players to use on Wednesday, and all four should start against Spurs.
- With so many options at the moment, thanks to a short player injury report, there is no need to rush Elneny back into contention for this match. Perhaps if deemed fully fit he could sit on the bench in place of Thomas Partey, but otherwise Sambi & Maitland-Niles should be able to handle AFC Wimbledon nicely.
- Much has changed since Arsenal’s last League Cup match, in which Ramsdale was the keeper and second in line. Following a 5-0 defeat to Manchester City and the international break, Ramsdale has taken over the number one spot in the net for the Gunners, now with three wins in three starts to begin his Arsenal career. That puts Bernd Leno into the unfamiliar spot as the backup at Arsenal, a role he may very well keep all season before exiting next summer. And with that role comes being placed on the bench for Premier League matches and a starting role for the FA and League Cup fixtures.
- This would be the first start for this foursome at the back this season, but a setup we’ve nearly seen in the early part of the league schedule. A chance for Mari, Holding, & Cedric to recover confidence following the defeats to Chelsea and City, plus the opportunity to see Nuno Tavares once more, who has shown moments of quality that hopefully allow Arsenal a solid 1-2 left-back depth for several seasons to come.
- With Xhaka serving the last match of his red card suspension, we can hopefully get another look at Sambi partnering with Ainsley Maitland-Niles in midfield. The pair had a successful outing in the 1-0 win over Norwich, helping limit the Canaries to just one shot on target. If Maitland-Niles can continue to show his value in the center of the pitch, Arsenal can easily transition away from Xhaka (transfer) & Elneny (contract expiration) next summer. Moves that will help Arteta continue to reshape the structure and composition of Arsenal’s midfield.
- Up top Lacazette and Martinelli have been waiting for the chance to start. A strong first half might even see Lacazette subbed out not long after the halftime break in order to utilize him against Tottenham at the start. I’ve opted to keep Smith Rowe in the starting XI after he struggled to impact the match against Burnley. To complete the attack I have Pepe starting again, despite potentially being a starter on Sunday as well. I think Arteta would prefer to rest Odegaard, Saka, and Aubameyang over Pepe. Neither Nketiah nor Balogun fits well out wide, but perhaps he tries one of them just to give one of them first-team minutes. Nor do I see a U23 player jumping into that starting role when the senior squad have so many players available.
How to watch
Wednesday (9/22) at 2:45 pm ET / 11:45 am PT - currently not scheduled to air on ESPN+, but audio will be available on Arsenal.com.
Arsenal - 3
AFC Wimbledon - 0
Arteta’s side has started to gain some momentum coming out of the international break and they won’t want a shock Cup defeat to derail that effort heading into the North London Derby. With a chance for new starters to make their mark ahead of that clash expect another strong Cup performance from the Gunners carrying them on to the Fourth Round and the final 16.