In the current climate, we remain day-to-day or hour-to-hour when it comes to whether a match will take place as scheduled and which players will actually be available. At the moment Arsenal are scheduled to play their second leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final against Liverpool. The match was initially scheduled for two weeks ago. Arsenal’s weekend league match against Burnley is already in doubt. If neither of those fixtures manages to kick-off the Gunners will find themselves without a game until February 10th - nearly one month after the first leg.
Both clubs have been wrapped in match postponement controversy over the past few weeks. First, Liverpool postponed the first leg of this tie, due to numerous positive COVID tests. Once they turned out to be false-positive cases, people began to question the incredible odds of that feat.
Then came the North London Derby. Arsenal had minimal COVID cases, perhaps as little as one, but due to other absences requested the match be rescheduled. Non-Arsenal supporters cried foul, but Arsenal were well within the rules the Premier League had set up. The issue wasn’t with Arsenal, but the inconsistency in which the Premier League has created (hello, VAR). That’s a problem to be fixed by the league, perhaps after the season, but for now, we focus on the match at hand.
Arsenal now have the advantage of being at home and remain level despite having to play a man down for the majority of the first leg. It’s a great chance to make a Cup final. There aren’t a ton of options for Mikel Arteta to pick from, but who is in your starting XI for Thursday?
- Bernd Leno
- Nuno Tavares
- Rob Holding
- Charlie Patino
- Omar Hutchison
- Miguel Azeez
- Eddie Nketiah
- Tyreece John-Jules
- Left Out: Arthur Okonkwo
- Out: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (AFCON), Mohamed Elneny (AFCON), Thomas Partey (AFCON), Pepe (AFCON), Pablo Mari (loan announcement to Udinese expected soon), Granit Xhaka (red card), Martin Odegaard (COVID)
- Without any major team updates, we don’t have any changes in player status from last week. As such, I’ve gone with the same predicted starting XI. With both a Cup Final on the line and Arsenal’s match this weekend having the potential to be called off, there is no reason for Arteta not to play his best XI available.
- In the comments for the North London Derby predicted XI it was discussed if Ben White should partner Lokonga instead of Calum Chambers in midfield. That would bring Rob Holding alongside Gabriel and move Chambers to the bench. Chambers and White have played CM before, but not under Arteta. The question is if White in midfield is enough of an advantage compared to Chambers in order to lose your preferred CB duo? Personally, I still want to see White on the backline.
- One potential change could be a result of players who have recently returned to Arsenal following half-season loans. Miguel Azeez had 10 matches for Portsmouth, with one goal and one assist, and is exactly what Arsenal need at the moment — midfield depth. Tyreece John-Jules is back from a stint in the Championship with Blackpool. With Aubameyang and Balogun no longer available, John-Jules is an easy addition to the bench to help with depth up top or on either wing.
- Is there a chance that Martin Odegaard has been symptom-free and turning in negative COVID tests since last week? His status is completely up in the air, but there is always a long shot that he is able to return to the bench. If so, one of the many U23s would make way.
- With Sead Kolasinac’s loan move to Marseille, we could see another U23 player on the bench based on Cedric’s injury status. If Cedric is unavailable, look for Ryan Alebiosu or Zak Swanson on the bench to add right-back depth.
How to watch
Thursday (1/20) at 2:45 pm ET / 11:45 am PT on ESPN+.
Arsenal - 2
Liverpool - 1
Arsenal will feel bolstered by last week’s performance at Anfield. They return to the Emirates for the second leg in front of a crowd that is becoming more unified as the season has progressed. If the Gunners can avoid any further absences and maintain the defensive clinic from the first leg, they are in for a wonderful opportunity to advance to the League Cup Final.