It’s third round EFL Cup action tonight as we’re away at Brentford. Traditionally this has been a competition in which young players get a chance, but when you’re facing decent Premier League opposition, it’s not easy to do that. Instead, tonight ought to be a chance for some players who haven’t played a great deal this season.
In terms of the team news, Mikel Arteta categorically ruled out Declan Rice, Leandro Trossard, Thomas Partey and Gabriel Martinelli, and cast real doubt on Bukayo Saka due to the fact he limped off towards the end of the North London derby. To be honest, this is a game I’d prefer him to sit out anyway, but let’s see if he makes the bench or not. Arteta did hint there might be some youthful involvement beyond the first eleven, but quite who remains to be seen.
There are a lot of players that need minutes, that’s for sure. You can go through the squad and some players haven’t played that many minutes and tomorrow they’re going to have exposure for sure.
I assume Aaron Ramsdale will start this one, with Brentford boss Thomas Frank casting doubt on reports that they had given permission for on-loan David Raya to be involved. You have to imagine that Takehiro Tomiyasu and Jakub Kiwior will come into the side, there might even be room for Cedric at right back, but numbers mean that one of the regulars has to play to make up the back four – unless Arteta hands a start to a young player.
Ahead of that, pick your favourite combination from Jorginho, Mohamed Elneny, Emile Smith Rowe, Kai Havertz, Reiss Nelson, Fabio Vieira and Eddie Nketiah. I think those guys will be in the frame for this one, and in particular it’s an opportunity for Smith Rowe to get some first team minutes under his belt. It’s amazing to consider this, but the last time he started a game for us on was the 2-0 defeat to Newcastle towards the end of the 2021-22 season.
Since then he has had a fairly major surgery, and never been able to work his way back into the team. Speaking yesterday, the manager insisted the club never gave any consideration to letting him go during the summer, and said:
Tomorrow he’ll have a big chance to show that he can play at this level and he can be a really important player for us.
He was also quite interesting on where he sees him playing. Having been most successful playing from the left-hand side, Arteta said:
I think the best position for Emile is to play in those pockets. He’s not to play as a pure winger that regardless on how we play the position that he would have to play if he’s playing as a pure winger. I think it suits him, I think the relationship will suit him and now he needs the minutes and he needs to prove that he can do what he can do.
It would be great to see him make a good step forward again this evening, because a career that was so much fun and so exciting has absolutely plateaued in the last 18 months or so. Injury and surgery doesn’t help, obviously, but as we have seen in the past, being out of a team for a prolonged period can make it very difficult to get back in. He’s a player I really enjoy watching though, so I have everything crossed that he’s got the strength of character to fight his way back, because I think the talent is obvious.
Interestingly … or not … the manager wasn’t asked a single question about the opposition, or this tournament in particular. He was quizzed about potentially buying a striker in January, a question he naturally brushed aside given we’re not even in October yet, but nothing at all about the EFL Cup. Which tells you something about the stature of it, I guess, but also what makes headlines these days.
This game isn’t on UK TV, but there are plenty of channels worldwide showing it, so there should be streams doing the rounds. All going well, we’ll have a live blog for you if you can’t find a stream (or can’t deal with all the pop-ups), and the usual post-game fare on Arseblog News.
For now, take it easy.