When I’m getting a ticket for 9 Pound it’s safe to say Arsenal are aware of the perception of the League Cup.
Our opponents on Tuesday are 17th in the Premier League with just one victory, and with a few injuries they are likely to rest key players.
It’s a competition we traditionally used to give opportunities to our youngsters, but will not this year, it’s our most likely route to silverware and a route back into Europe.
Regardless of our startling line up (I do expect some rotation) it’s a low profile setting for what could be one of the biggest games of some Gunners’ careers.
It’s zero exaggeration to say for some it could be their last chance to prove they belong at the club.
Eddie Nketiah has been part of our academy since the age of 16. Calum Chambers moved to North London 7 years ago. Neither can make a League matchday squad at the moment even when managers can pick 9 names on their bench.
To put that into perspective Kolasinac was a substitute on Friday!
When a player whose employers have been trying to get off the wage bill for a year is ahead of you in the pecking order, you know your future is in jeopardy.
It’s long been accepted that Eddie will be elsewhere this time next year with his contract due to expire.
When you’re chasing a goal and Nketiah and Balogun are sat at home, that’s telling.
Balogun has gone from starting at Brentford to not starting again, even against Wimbledon.
Where Balogun can be loaned out for his development though, Eddie is running out of time to prove he’s worth the deal he wants.
It’s ironic that Leeds are the opponents that offer him a rare chance to get some goals, given that remains the only team where the 22-year-old had a productive scoring streak.
Calum Chambers is experiencing a bigger fall from grace. Despite plagued by injuries, this is still a man who has played 120 times for the Gunners. As things stand, he’s another talent scheduled to leave in the summer without us getting a fee.
It was assumed the Gunners would trigger a one-year option, If for nothing else but to protect value on an asset.
Popular in the dressing room, it seemed Arteta was giving Chambers a chance at right back, but the 26-year-old was last involved in a squad as an unused sub at home to Wimbledon.
Say that out loud, you start two of the three first Prem fixtures but then are not trusted to feature against lower League opposition.
Without the Europa League we can no longer offer fringe players the opportunity to prove themselves, so midweek could be that rare possibility.
That’s not guaranteed though.
As he showed in the 2nd round, Arteta won’t gamble too much with his selections, earmarking the domestic cups as the only way to win some silverware and put some smiles on faces.
The Spaniard has a history of freezing out individuals the moment he thinks you don’t suit his ethos.
If you’re not in his thought process at the weekend it can’t be assumed your starting in the cups.
Currently Chambers appears to be 5th choice CB and 3rd choice RB.
Even if the back 4 who started against Villa are rested for Leicester, Holding and Mari seem the stand-in centre backs while Cedric has been our back-up right back.
The only hope for Chambers is that Tavares won’t be risked in the Carabao Cup while Tierney is injured, which means the left back spot is up for grabs.
Cedric can play in that position which would free up Chambers to come in on the right.
If our boss instead chooses Kolasinac at left back, then Chambers should start speaking to other clubs.
With Laca and Auba once again starting together, the temptation might be to start both on the bench but I’m not sure you can trust Eddie to be our sole striker?
Given that all parties have accepted that he won’t be extending his deal there’s is no reason to give playing time just for the sake of the player. Laca hasn’t had many minutes this campaign and can offer more in that role.
Elsewhere, Leno is our cup keeper and lucky to still be that after his outbursts to the German media every time he’s on international duty.
Given his boss’ track record I’m surprised he’s tolerated that.
As already mentioned, Mari has been in recent squads so will be eager to make an impression.
I’m still waiting for Maitland-Niles to play like the midfielder that exists only in his own mind.
Martinelli shouldn’t have to keep proving himself but will get another chance to shine.
Leno – GK
Cedric – LB, Mari – CB, Holding- CB, Chambers -RB
DM – Elneny, Maitland-Niles
Martinelli LM, Odegaard AM, Pepe RM
Laca – Striker
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