I can see why Arsene Wenger chooses to play the Arsenal fringe players and youngsters in the early stages of the league cup, now called the EFL cup, especially when the early rounds pit the Gunners against clubs like Reading and Nottingham Forest from a lower division.
However much this competition might be a lower priority for Arsenal, with the Premier League, Champions League and then the FA cup all more important, it is still a trophy and in recent years we Arsenal fans have not been so overloaded with silverware that we can afford to be blase about any chance of winning something.
So now that the second string Arsenal team has managed to get us into the quarter-finals of the competition we could reasonably expect to see a stronger Arsenal line-up from now on, but that is not what it sounded like the boss is planning from his post match comments reported on the Arsenal website.
The Frenchman spoke about how good it was to be able to give some proper game time to players that needed it and he was clearly happy that they performed well, but he also suggested that giving the likes of our third choice keeper minutes on the pitch is more important than the result.
Wenger said, “It was a dynamic game between two teams who tried to play passing football and build up the game from the back. For me, it was also good to see some young players who practise every day with a top team, and also give them a chance with the other players who needed competition. It was positive. It was an interesting game which we were able to win in a comfortable way in the second half.
“I felt that Rob Holding did well and also Ainsley Maitland-Niles, he did well. Jeff Reine-Adelaide did alright too.
“Look, if we stay in all the competitions, it’s not too difficult [to give them game time]. And that’s a positive of qualifying tonight. We have always targets and the players who, for example, we have three top class goalkeepers, because you see Emi Martinez as well. But as long as we are in this competition, he obviously gets his game so they have a focus, something to focus on.”
Arsenal could face another Championship side when the draw for the next round is done, but if we are drawn against a big club, is it really more important for the second string to get another game than it is for Arsenal to get another step closer to a trophy?