Arsenal begin their Capital One Cup campaign with a home tie against in form Southampton. For the second match in a row, Arsene Wenger’s side will face the team in second place.
The manager is likely to once again ring the changes, with Joel Campbell, Tomas Rosicky, Lukas Podolski, Francis Coquelin and Abou Diaby likely to get their first starts of the season alongside youngsters such as Isaac Hayden and Hector Bellerin.
It remains a mystery what sort of team Ronald Koeman will pick but there doesn’t seem to be any logical reason not to pick his strongest side with the Saints not occupied by Europe and looking increasingly unlikely to be bothered by the relegation battle.
For some of Arsenal’s fringe players it will be a valuable run out. As a fan I understand and acknowledge where this competition ranks in the club’s priorities, but that doesn’t diminish my personal desire for us to win it.
All football tournaments are contrived and they are done so ostly for our entertainment and for a shot at glory. The club have priorities of course, but I don’t have to count the beans!
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has labelled Southampton ‘miracle workers’ as the decimation of their squad over the summer appears to have had no short term effects.
‘They are miracle workers at Southampton. Everybody expected them to collapse, they lost the spine of their team, they lost their manager and they bounced back in such a strong way. I must say that when I saw them against Liverpool on the opening day of the season when they lost, I thought straight away that this team is very strong and very good.
‘Ronald Koeman has a great experience as a coach. He has done a great job.’
Wenger also suggested Abou Diaby is ready for his first start since March 2013. ‘Diaby is a giant, mentally. To do what he has done, with the severe injuries he has had, he comes back every time, is dedicated and he deserves a lot of respect.
‘I`m a huge believer in his quality and I`m sad as well that he couldn`t show it more. If there is some justice, the future will be much better for him.’
Saints boss Ronald Koeman suggests his side are very much up for the League Cup, with 5,000 Saints fans expected at the Emirates tonight.’
“We`ve prepared ourselves, even though we don`t know what Arsenal`s starting line-up will be,” he said.
“We have to be concentrated and focused game-by-game because the next game is the most important.
“We don`t have time to train seriously because we`re recovering after the match at Swansea, but we did a short session today, and now we have to travel and prepare for tomorrow.
“We`ve had a good start to the season, and now we have to work hard to continue that.
“We`d like to go on in the League Cup, and for that reason we will take it very seriously.”
Arsenal Team News:
Arsenal are likely to rest everybody that started the game against Aston Villa on Saturday, bar Calum Chambers. Nacho Monreal (back) won’t be back until after the October international break.
Mathieu Debuchy (ankle) will miss the next three months following ankle surgery. Yaya Sanogo (hamstring) and Serge Gnabry (knee) are still unavailable, as is Theo Walcott. David Ospina will make his debut in goal.
Arsenal (from); Rosicky, Podolski, Wilshere, Ospina, Flamini, Chambers, Diaby, Martinez, Campbell, Coquelin, Zelalem, Akpom, Bellerin, Hayden, Iwobi, Ajayi, Pleguezuelo, Jebb.
Player to watch: Isaac Hayden
Hayden is virtualy guaranteed to start at centre half and with the Gunners very short of bodies in defence, this represents a very good chance for Hayden to stake his claim
Arsenal’s third choice centre half is required at right back for the next 3 months, so Hayden will never have a better chance to prove he ought to be part of the first team squad at Arsenal.
Southampton Team News:
Ronald Koeman has confirmed that James Ward-Prowse will miss the game with an ankle problem. Maya Yoshida also misses out.
Toby Alderweireld has a hamstring injury, but Senegalese striker Sadio Mane has had his work perit granted and is in the squad. Jay Rodriguez continues his recovery from a cruciate ligament injury.
Southampton (from); K.Davis, Clyne, Schniederlin, Gardos, Fonte, Long, S.Davis, Mane, Tadic, Wanyama, Cork, Pelle, Bertrand, Forster, Mayuka, Isgrove, McQueen, Gallagher.
Player to watch: Morgan Schneiderlin
After his summer indiscretion, which amounted to a concerted effort to leave the club and a twitter outburst he likely regrets, Schneiderlin has been one of the Saints’ key figures this season.
Far from looking like the man that was left behind in Southampton’s summer of wanderlust, Schneiderlin seems to have visibly grown as the Saints experienced campaigner in midfield and has even begun to add some goals to his game.
Match Facts & Stats
Arsenal are unbeaten against Saints in their last ten meetings since a 3-2 defeat at St Mary’s in November 2002.
Arsenal and Southampton have played one another four times in the League Cup, with the Gunners advancing on each occasion.
The Gunners’ last domestic defeat at the Emirates was their 2-0 loss to Chelsea in the fourth round of last season’s League Cup.
The Gunners have won 9 of their last 11 League Cup ties at home. Only Manchester City and Chelsea have blotted their copybook.
Arsenal have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last nine matches in this competition, a sequence that began with defeat to Birmingham in the 2010-11 final.
Saints have reached the fourth round of this competition in each of the last three seasons.
Arsene Wenger has still yet to win the League Cup.
Southampton have never won the competition, but were runners up in 1979.
Keith Stroud will officiate this one.
A lot depends on what sort of side Southampton play, but I fancy Arsenal to squeeze this one 2-1. Podolski and Joel Campbell for Arsenal, Pelle for Saints.
Arsenal are at home to Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday at 5.30pm. Southampton play QPR at home on Saturday at 3pm.