By Phil Gregory
Arsenal welcome Liverpool to the Emirates stadium for Wednesday’s Carling Cup tie.
The Reds, already six points off the pace in the Premier League despite a solid home win over champions Manchester United are expected to put out a below strength side for the tie with an eye on their match at Craven Cottage at the weekend.
With a lack of squad depth being a major criticism of the team Benitez has put together for this season, it will be interesting to see how they perform against an Arsenal side that, while weakened, has put Premier League teams to the sword in the past.
Arsenal come into the game after another disappointing away draw, having given away a two goal lead at Upton Park on Sunday to ultimately share the points with the Hammers. Despite scoring freely, we haven’t looked confident at the back, partly due to a shake up over the owner of the number one jersey. The kids, however, have no such worries, having dispatched a strong West Brom outfit 2-0 in the previous
Liverpool will undoubtedly have their confidence restored after the victory over Manchester United, but question marks remain over their ability to maintain a high level of performance over the campaign, with big wins over Hull and Burnley contrasting with disappointing results against Aston Villa and Tottenham on the opening day.
Arsenal have already announced that they will be without Carling Cup regular Jack Wilshire, as well as pacy Frenchman Armand Traore. Of the other four injured first teamers, only Johan Djourou would have expected to be involved. Nasri and Fabianski have been confirmed starters after recent injuries, while Eduardo and Bendtner are expected to play to regain match fitness.
Liverpool have ruled Spanish wideman Riera out with a hamstring injury, and he is joined on the sidelines by Michael Kelly, who impressed against Lyon recently. Reserve centre back Kyrgiakos is out along with club captain Gerrard, and fullback Dossena is the final absentee.
Arsenal predicted line-up:
Gilbert Senderos Silvestre Gibbs
Bendtner Eduardo Merida/Vela
I’m expecting Wenger to give the two backup centrebacks a run out, which is a shame as I’m keen to see reserve team captain Bartley get some minutes.
Eboue could perhaps slot in instead of Gilbert, but Gibbs is a dead cert to take the leftback slot after impressive displays there in last season’s Carling Cup campaign. I’m expecting Nasri to take a central role given his seniority over Merida, but it isn’t a given. I declined to name a bench as it would be simply guesswork – it could be reserves such as Watt, or it could be fairly experienced.
For Arsenal, Nasri is certainly a standout name, and he will be looking to make a big impact on this game with the intention of winning a first team place back. Ramsey too will be looking to underline his credentials as Cesc’s understudy and earn himself more minutes. Eduardo should be more than capable of exposing a Liverpool back line that has looked vulnerable to pace and movement.
Liverpool’s reserves look distinctly unimpressive, and I’m struggling to pick out a name. Riera seems like one of their few danger men, and the left winger was one of the big differences between Liverpool 08/09 and Liverpool 07/08. He offered good width in a Liverpool side that looked distinctly one-dimensional the previous campaign with Babel occupying the left midfield position. Up against Gɪlbert, he may get some joy.
I strongly believe our kids can beat anyone at home, and Liverpool reserves are poorer than most. Even though they have a bit of experience amongst them, the young guns won’t be intimidated by names such as Nɡoɡ, Babel and Voronin, despite the first-team minutes they have clocked up. I am going for a solid 2-0 to the Arsenal, with us to dominate the midfield in particular.
Tony’s Postscript: There’s more about MAKING THE ARSENAL – the book that arose from discussions on this site. See all the details (and if you would like to help me recoup just a little of the expense of running this site, you can buy a copy) on the MAKING THE ARSENAL SITE.
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