Arsenal cannot afford to ignore the League Cup any longer by Dan Smith
For years now I have said gone have the times when we as fans could look down on the League Cup. Arsene Wenger did so yet again last campaign when he played a weakened side against Southampton, sacrificing a place in a major cup semi final.
In the manager’s defense he could point to us at the time still having a realistic title challenge. He can’t say that this year with Man City all but guaranteed to be champions and it’s not even Christmas Day. With the Premiership a one horse race suddenly the cups have greater importance. While the Caribao and Europa League can often be described as a ‘ Micky Mouse Cup’ it could be our only realistic route to any kind of success.
I long had the opinion our season was a write off due to our disastrous summer. It’s now about getting through this campaign with players who don’t want to be at the club, then starting again in July. If we somehow manager to squeeze into the top 4, then we should all breathe a sigh of relief and learn from our mistakes.
But with 2 years left on his contract there must be a desire from Wenger to add to his 10 major trophies he has won. He is smart enough to know that there is an increasing desire among fans for him not to extend his stay in North London. Meanwhile he and the Board are struggling to keep up the argument that this is a team going forward. If the Frenchmen though could make it 4 cup wins in 5 years that would be a statistic any man should be proud of.
So there must be a temptation to start a strong team on Tuesday night, especially with West Ham suddenly buzzing with confidence. That temptation though is handicapped by the knowledge that we play on Friday evening vs Liverpool. The competition’s sponsors must be fuming. As they campaign for sides to take this competition seriously, the Premier League undermines them by their fixture scheduling.
While I am not a fan who believes players can’t play 3 games a week and feel managers put to much emphasise on players needing rest, the reality is our boss is not going to want to hand any advantage to Liverpool, in a game which could have a bearing on who qualifies for the Champion’s League.
So it is unlikely that anyone who face Newcastle will start against the Hammers. David Moyes will be aware of this and will know if he were to field his first team the visitors might start as favorites. If this were a month ago when his new employers were in the relegation zone he may of felt compelled to rest everyone for the Christmas schedule. But the Scott knows he has a 6 month contract to impress. What better way to do that then win silverware?
West Hams might even feel they have a physiological advantage given that a week ago they frustrated our first team. Their game play will be exactly the same at the Emirates, letting us have the ball and challenging us to break them down. To be fair our attack could still include the likes of Giroud, Walcott and Welbeck who more they have enough ability to do the damage.
But as much as our fringe players have succeeded in getting us this far, as well as past the group stage of the Europa League you do feel the likes of Giroud and Walcott have not taken on the initiative like they should for this game.
Many Gooners will argue that as long as we beat Liverpool on Friday night our team selection on Tuesday will be vindicated. But a day out at Wembley should not be easily discarded. It’s our only way this season of making something pretty out of a quite ugly painting.