By Tony Attwood
If it had not been for Satruday’s game against Newcastle, we’d have been expecting Maitland-Niles to play in the match against West Ham in the League Cup quarter final.
But AMN did play, and Kolasinac was dropped. So what do we make of that?
There are several possibilities. Kolasinac had a slight knock. Or Mr Wenger wanted to see how AMN fared in a Premier League game – in which case it is obviously worthwhile putting him in against a team with a modest attack. (Newcastle don’t have the worst attack, but they are in the bottom half dozen). Or Mr Wenger thinks that it is a good idea to play five at the back (with wing backs) against West Ham and Kolasinac is the better option, even though it is “only” the League Cup.
Here is what Mr Wenger said of AMN…
“I believe he is the future. He can play left back, right back, central midfield. Of the three positions, maybe the least natural for him is left back, but he adapts very quickly and is a good defender. He has that sense of one against one, he is very strong, he is very quick, he has very quick recovery runs when he comes back. He has some aspects to learn: experience and he has to work on his heading. But overall, what he has done in the last three days is positive.”
So playing AMN on Saturday could have been any of those reasons above, or indeed a combination of them. There is also the fact of Liverpool on Friday… another game where there are issues relating to defence to contemplate. Even before today’s game (which is about to happen as I am writing this) Liverpool is the third highest scoring team in the league, so there is extra need for thought there.
All of which is a prelude to saying there are a lot of ifs and buts swirling around the choice of the team for the league cup semi-final. Indeed my little list of issues surrounding the full back situation could be extended if we follow the logic of the Daily Mirror which is running the headline about five players who could leave Arsenal in January. Their idea is for a full-scale turn around in terms of club personnel, but I rather suspect not. (The five are Alexis, Ozil, Giroud, Chambers, Walcott). The Sunday Excess goes even further and adds Jack Wilshere to the list).
Still one of the things to remember in all this is that at least one prediction for the Newcastle game in terms of the teams was untrue: FootballFanCast ran with “If he starts we won’t win – Arsenal fans demand star doesn’t face Newcastle.” The “he” was Xhaka, and he did, and we didn’t (play / lose that is).
In the last game for Arsenal II (the 6-0 stroll against BATE Barisov) the team was
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Debuchy, Holding, Chambers, Maitland-Niles
Walcott, Giroud, Welbeck.
On the beach we had Macey, Reine-Adelaide, Akpom, Nelson, Nketiah, Sheaf, Willock.
In the last League Cup match West Ham played (against Tottenham at Wembley) they put out this team…
Adrian, Byram, Rice, Kouyate, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Lanzini (Arnautovic 88), Fernandes (Obiang 77), Noble, Ayew, Carroll
while in their match against us at the amusingly called London Stadium they put out
Adrian, Reid, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Zabaleta, Noble (c), Obiang, Masuaku, Lanzini, Arnautovic, Antonio (Chicharito 82).
The players who played in the league game against us and the league cup game against Tottenham were thus Adrian, Ogbonna, Cresswell, and Lanzini.
So a fair degree of rotation for West Ham: not the total rotation between Arsenal I and Arsenal II that we have been seeing, but a fair amount of giving players a rest.
While Arsenal play Liverpool on Friday, West Ham play Newcastle on Saturday, and given the state of Newcastle that is a game that West Ham must surely think they can win.
After four defeats and a draw, they have now had two wins and a draw in the Premier League, but they are still only two points about Newcastle in the league. So my guess is that all emphasis will be placed on keeping up the League momentum in that game, and thus they will be playing, if not a second XI team against us, they will be doing a mix and match, keeping most of the squad who beat Stoke 0-3, fresh and ready for the Newcastle game.
Which means Arsenal can play the Arsenal II team on Tuesday. But exactly what that means I’ll consider in more detail tomorrow.