Arsenal team to face Wigan will be ‘young but experienced’
Carling Cup quarter-final: Arsenal v Wigan Athletic, Emirates Stadium, 7.45pm
The team that has featured in the Carling Cup under Arsene Wenger has often better resembled an Arsenal youth side than a first team, as unfamiliar names and arbitrary shirt numbers have become the norm.
Wenger has at times been stubborn in his persistent investment in his philosophy of blooding youngsters in this competition. With such a great record at the club, he has often been forgiven by fans and media alike for adopting this policy that has allowed for the justified interpretation that the Carling Cup has not always been his number one priority.
However with a fallow period for the club that has seen them go without a trophy for five years, the Carling Cup this time round is perhaps a greater priority than it has been previously.
Wenger will not allude to this himself, seeing as the team he is likely to put out this evening will once more be brimming with youth. However the considerable amount of first team regulars that may feature including ‘young’ veterans such as Jack Wilshere, Nicklas Bendtner, Denilson and Theo Walcott reveals that Wenger is placing added investment in the immediate pursuit of a trophy. This should gratify the home support, who no longer feel that the Carling Cup is just simply a means to the future.
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Masterfully perhaps then, Wenger will be able to satisfy both his own personal philosophy of investing in youth, as well as the media and fans, who now demand that this competition is something that Arsenal should genuinely attempt to win.
This season the Gunners have struck eight goals in two games, conceding only once on their run to the quarter-final, with Wigan themselves hardly being frugal, scoring on average three goals in each round.
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Fans who brave the weather this evening, will be hoping for an avalanche of goals in the capital, as these two attacking sides go head to head for a place in the semi-finals.
There is substance to this hope as well, as Arsenal look set to give Robin van Persie has first start since recovering from an ankle injury sustained early in the season. The Dutchman has repeatedly struggled with injury in recent times and he will no doubt be eager to get back amongst the goals tonight.
Captain Cesc Fabregas will not feature however, after damaging his hamstring against Braga last week.
In his place will be his young apprentice Jack Wilshere, who will look to make the most of his opportunity in Fabregas’s orchestrating free role.
Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny is set to return between the posts as he did for the win at Newcastle in the last round, while Johan Djourou and Kieran Gibbs are also likely to start again in a rejigged back four that will also feature Emmanuel Eboue, fit again just a week after suffering what initially looked a serious knee injury in Braga.
However, a scan on the Ivorian revealed only bruising, and he will start on the right side of the Gunners’ defence tonight.
The Wigan manager Roberto Martinez will look to field a strong attacking line up, as progress in this competition could well be a welcome distraction from an inconsistent campaign thus far, that has seen his side plummet down the table and into the relegation zone.
Rising star Victor Moses looks set to start, and he will be eager to make the most of this, as astonishingly (to everyone bar Martinez it seems), he has rarely started for Wigan this season.
In his place has often been the disappointing and at times seemingly disillusioned loanee Franco Di Santo, who should drop to the bench.
Wenger commented on the policy of youth reflecting, “You will be surprised if you look at the age of the Carling Cup team.
“People are used to seeing them in the Premier League so it doesn’t look as exclusively a Carling Cup team anymore.
“I have many players who are top level and I have many players who are young as well.
“We need games for young players so that explains why we have less ‘super’ young players playing. However, the team who plays in the Carling Cup is still very young.”
Likely Arsenal line-up tonight