The EFL Cup is here once again, giving fans a unique window to see our future players and a chance for our fringe players to remind Unai Emery that they are worthy of selection.
Tickets are cheap, and it’s a great opportunity to fill the stands with fans, but regardless of how full The Emirates will be, all eyes will be on the youngsters on show.
Historically, Arsenal have used the earlier rounds of this competition to blood the kids and after our pre-season was filled with our Academy players impressing, many of them will be looking forward to this tie, with a view to getting some minutes for the first team.
Mind you, our opponents are no pushovers.
Nottingham Forest were victors the last time we played them, back in 2018 in the FA Cup when they handed us a shock 4-2 hammering. The same is entirely possible so Emery must blend youth with a little dash of experience if we are to progress in a cup we have not lifted since 1993.
Forest haven’t won at our home since 1989, and they are suffering with plenty of injuries right now, including former Gunner Carl Jenkinson.
It adds up to a likely home victory, but we can’t take anything for granted right now. Nothing is set in stone, and the kids who line up will have everything to prove.
Who will Emery opt for? What kids will get the nod?
It’s more a story of the walking wounded returning here, as Hector Bellerin,, Kieran Tierney, Rob Holding and Dinos Mavropanos could all feature here after being out for some time. That can’t come too soon either, as all are defenders and we are pretty light on the ground. It could see Shkodran Mustafi take the right back spot, with Zech Medley on the left.
We could see Emile Smith-Rowe start this game, and if so he will likely take the playmaker spot. His rival for the berth would be Mesut Ozil, who seems to be short of minutes for no justifiable reason. The German needs a run of form and this game could be the catalyst.
What will be certain is a rest for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has played nearly every minute so far this season. With Eddie Nketiah on loan and Alexandre Lacazette out until October, that means Gabriel Martinelli could get the sole striking spot.
Reiss Nelson and Bukayo Saka are good shouts for the wide spots, and Jo Willock could come back into the side to give a breather to Matteo Guendouzi. Robbie Burton, Tyreece John-Jules and James Olayinka will all be in the reckoning for minutes too.
Player to Watch
Adomah was one of Aston Villa’s better players in his time at the Midlands club, and has carved out a reputation as a wideman with a box of tricks. If Forest play on the break, then Adomah has the pace to carry the ball and pierce our brittle backline. Adomah also has a decent goal threat so our wing-backs will have to be switched on.
How This Could Go
Forest boss Sabri Lamouchi will have his focus on the Championship and will have used this tie as a reward to his better performing players. That means that the pressure is off and they can go and let loose – a dangerous combo for a higher tier team.
We have everything to lose, so an early goal to assert our position wouldn’t go amiss, and our more established players will need to ensure our younger kids don’t go losing their heads should we go without scoring for a while. The atmosphere could change if we don’t make a breakthrough early, although our kids should be given a reprieve as this is needed to gain the experience they need.
We should earn the win we need to go through, but this could end up being tougher than we think.
Predicted Team – Martinez, Mustafi, Holding, Mavropanos, Medley, Willock, Burton, Smith-Rowe, Ozil, Nelson, Martinelli
Predicted Scoreline – 3-1 to The Arsenal