Can the (mostly) B squad see the Gunners through to the next round?
After an impressive Premier League victory on Friday evening, it’s time to bring in some B-squad members to create the supporting cast and fill in as Arsenal’s attention turns towards a midweek League Cup fixture. Let’s try to empty the cupboard as much as possible to fill out this WCW Thunder / WWE Smackdown lineup while also trying to progress on the back of a few key players. (To be fair, if this really was WCW Thunder Sead Kolasinac & Arthur Okonkwo would definitely be on the card.)
The two sides have met three times in recent years with Arsenal having the advantage (two wins and one draw across two Premier League matches and once in the FA Cup). Prior to that, the clubs hadn’t met since 2012, with all of their games taking place in the FA Cup since Leeds were last in the top flight back in 2004. Tuesday’s match will be the first time Arsenal has faced Leeds United in the League Cup since 1979, which saw the Gunners win 7-0.
Arsenal have seen moderate success in this competition in recent seasons, advancing to at least the quarterfinals four of the last five seasons, and were runners up in 2017-18. They’ve lost in the final three times since the last time the club lifted the League Cup trophy back in the 1992-93 season. With fewer matches this season, can Mikel Arteta push Arsenal into the later stages of the competition?
- Aaron Ramsdale
- Calum Chambers
- Takehiro Tomiyasu
- Thomas Partey
- Emile Smith Rowe
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
- Left Out: Arthur Okonkwo, Kieran Tierney, Folarin Balogun, Bukayo Saka, Albert Sambi Lokonga, Sead Kolasinac, Ben White & Alexandre Lacazette.
- Out: Granit Xhaka (knee).
- Considering how many first-team players haven’t gotten much playing time since the last Cup match I’m expecting heavy rotation. With no European group games, this is Arteta’s easiest and best place to rotate.
- Bernd Leno, Rob Holding, Pablo Mari, and Cedric — that’s a foursome that use to be starting league matches for Arsenal. Add in Friday’s starting left-back Tavares and Arteta can roll out a decent B-team defense.
- With Calum Chambers and Ainsley Maitland-Niles both in contention to start or be on the bench Tuesday, Arteta could opt for a back three (Chambers) and wing-backs or opt for a 4-3-3. Either way, there is enough flexibility in the roster options to adjust during the match based on how aggressive Marcelo Bielsa chooses his starting XI and when more of their first-choice starters get subbed in.
- Elneny and AMN paired nicely together in the past and should offer coverage to allow Odegaard to primarily join in the attack, especially if Martinelli and Pepe are tracking back on their respective sides.
- Up top, I’ve got Eddie Nketiah even though he hasn’t been able to break into the team much this season and his future at the club remains in doubt. Seeing how well Lacazette and Aubameyang played together against Aston Villa, Arteta may decide to leave the duo on the bench from the start (or in the stands) so they are fresh for the Leicester City match at the weekend.
- With the League Cup bench back down to seven players from nine last season there are some harder decisions as to which substitutes Mikel Arteta will select. Do you include Aubameyang or Lacazette? Gabriel or Ben White? Tierney or Tomiyasu? Saka or Smith Rowe? It’s a luxury to have all of those players fit and to be able to rest a significant number of Friday’s starters if Arteta desires.
How to watch
Tuesday (10/26) at 2:45 pm ET / 11:45 am PT on ESPN+.
Arsenal – 2
Leeds United – 1
With no European action this season these Cup competitions are more important for Arsenal to secure additional playing time for the backups. And if a jump back into the top four, or five, isn’t possible just yet this season progressing deep in either or both of the Cups can help continue to push this project and squad overhaul forward. Tuesday is a tough, but winnable, tie that Arteta should go for as the positive momentum will carry over into Arsenal’s league play.