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Tonight, we face Brighton & Hove Albion in the Third Round of the Carabao Cup (aka The League Cup to us oldies). Since the euphoria generated by the spirited style of our now customary victory at the Bus Stop in Fulham began slowly to dissipate, huddles of Gooners have been debating whether to potentially throw this tournament in the bin to allow our slim squad to sustain its hitherto remarkable charge for the Premiership title. 

There’s a strong lobby to rest our entire first XI, play the back-ups and some of the kids and see if they are good enough to dispose of Brighton but not really care if they don’t. This is based not only on the heavy schedule that our first teamers have just come through (with flying colours) but also on the fixture congestion to come in the new year if we continue to participate in this tournament. Thus, it is argued that we will have fewer mid-week commitments in the second half of the season and will be able to concentrate the energies of our first XI on the Holy Grail of the Premiership. It is not an unreasonable argument given our small squad and the predictable pressures to come in January through May. However, I suspect Mikel Arteta does not share this view.

Of course, in the Wenger years, the early rounds of this competition were used to test the kids, often with astounding success, and as the team progressed through each round more experience was added to match up against more challenging opponents. That approach did bring some limited success. During this era, I was lucky enough to attend three dispiriting finals. The first was against the despicable Portuguese’s Chavs in the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff where we were done by two virtually identical Drogba goals after an encouraging opener by the enthusiastic young Theo Walcot. The second, back at the new Wembley, saw an injury ravaged Arsenal line up lose 2-1 to an uninspiring Birmingham City side with long-term rumoured transfer target, Obafemi Martens scoring the winner in the 89th minute after that famous mix-up between Sczcęsny and Koscielny. We had been so dominant, I was optimistic that we could pull the fat out of the fire in the remaining 4 minutes of added time but it was not to be. The third Wenger final and the first named ‘Carabao’ was a predictable 3-0 thumping by an imperious Citeh outfit in Pep’s first final with Citeh. The gulf in quality was sickening. That overly personal reminiscence was to illustrate the fact that we have unfinished business in this competition.

We have long underperformed in this competition, probably often as a result of prioritising others.  We reached consecutive League Cup finals in 1968 and 1969, losing both – to (VERY) Dirty Leeds and Swindon Town respectively. The Guvna, Dave Faber, could provide a riveting eye-witness soliloquy on both those finals. We finally won the three handled pot in 1987 by beating Liverpool 2-1, after being 1-0 down, through two goals by Champagne Charlie Nicholas to give Gorgeous George his first trophy as Arsenal manager and returned to the final the next season only to lose 2-3 surprisingly to underdogs Luton Town, after being 2-1 up, goals by Hayes and Smith being insufficient given a penalty miss by Winterburn and defensive ineptitude by Caesar. That game was a sliding door moment for George who subsequently brought in Bould and Dixon to create the famous back four. We did win that pot once more, in 1993, 2-1 against Sheffield Wednesday (whom we also beat, after a replay, in that season’s FA Cup Final) with goals from Merson and Morrow after being 0-1 down. That final may be most notable for Tony Adams practising his future Strictly partner-lifting technique on Steve Morrow only to drop him and break his arm. His technique has clearly come on leaps and bounds since then though!

I expect Brighton to take this tournament seriously. They have never graced the final let alone won the competition but they are having a great start to the season, sitting in 6th place 13 points behind the leaders (who could that be?). Their coach, Robert de Zerbi has said he is treating this match like a Premier League game and expects his players to do the same:

“It will be a test for many players, but when we wear our shirt we must play seriously and we must try to win.

“it’s a very important game. I can make some changes in the first 11 but, for me, the cup or a friendly is like a Premier League game. There’s not a big difference.

“It’s important to always win, but it’s most important to play seriously. If we want to prepare in the best way for the next game against Aston Villa, we have to play well tomorrow – 100%. The best way to arrive in the best condition next Sunday is to play well tomorrow.

“I want 11 players who show the same respect as in the last game against Wolverhampton Wanderers. When a player has that mentality and plays the same way in a Premier League, in a training session, this is the mentality for me.

“Every time you wear the shirt, you always give 100% – this is the first part of mentality. The second part is to play with bravery, courage and personality against teams, whether they are bottom or top of the table.”

Sentiments we can, in truth, all get behind. As many Gooners opine, we want to win every game and win every competition we enter. Tonight is no different.

I expect Mikel Arteta to treat this game as he did the Europa League group games, selecting his back-ups and leavening them with first choices who are selected on the basis of game time already accumulated with the likes of Saka and Martinelli playing only part of the match, if needed. Some kids may be on the bench but I don’t expect a different approach from the Europa League. We can deal with fixture congestion in 2023 in 2023. At this point in time we should try to stay in every competition. Who knows what the fall-out from Qatar will bring? Hence, I expect a team like:

Turner (if fit)

Cedric, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney

Ødegaard, Elneny, Sambi

Vieira, Nketiah, Nelson

After all, there’s only one further game to play until the despicable WC in Qatar interrupts the season and many players get a six-week period of R ‘n R with three friendlies to play whilst others are condemned to running around in a baking hot sand-pit for the aggrandisement of a venal collection of middle eastern potentates.

The Holic pound is still going to Ukraine but I predict 2-1 to the Arsenal.

Sadly, the game is not being broadcast live on television anywhere in the world so apparently there won’t even be streams. Those not going can listen to the ‘radio’ commentary on .com but we will have our own eye-witness reporter in attendance and his match report will be posted here tomorrow.

18 Drinks to “Can Arsenal Fight Effectively on Four Fronts? Should We Try?”

  1. 1
    Countryman100 says:

    Bath that’s an excellent preview for which thank you so much. I am of the view that we rotate cautiously and very much want to win this trophy. I would not be surprised if Jesus played, perhaps with Eddie, and also Granit for Sambi. Otherwise I agree with your team. I’m lucky enough to be going to the match and hope we see the Gunners come out victorious. Straight to penalties if it’s a draw after 90 minutes.

  2. 2
    bt8 says:

    Bravo, what an outstanding preview! De Zerbi is spot on, and he could have taken the wordsright out of Mikel’s mouth so COYG!

  3. 3
    Noosa Gooner says:

    Thanks Bath
    I was at the Swindon final and it hurt a lot.
    Now, I can’t work up the enthusiasm to care for this trophy at all. Another game where I’m hoping that none of our first team regulars pick up injuries of any description.
    Play the second string – they may be good enough but if not – meh.

  4. 4
    Trev says:

    Great preview, bath, and in the circumstances quite outstanding !
    If you know you know 😉

    I think your team looks very likely in the midst of this crazy run of fixtures.
    I was a bit surprised to see Odegaard there but who knows ? I’ve no better suggestion unless Marquinhos is fit and Vieira drops back one line …..

  5. 5
    North Bank Ned says:

    Excellent preview, bath. For as long as we are in it, we should try to win it.

    Your team looks good, although I wonder if Zinchenko might not be given a run-out in midfield from the start with MØ8 coming on from the bench.

    De Zebri seems to have mastered the modern manager’s mantra, but Brighton always seem to put in a shift against us of late.

    Your pick at an old wound with mention of the Swindon game. Not a day to be remembered except painfully.

  6. 6
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks Bath, an excellent preview and a trip down Bad Memory Lane for several of us.
    I still hate Luton.

    As there will be no point in getting up at 5AM I will enjoy the lay-in and hope to wake to reading about our 10th consecutive home win of the season.

  7. 7
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Excellent preview Bath!
    I find it completely inexplicable why in the US the ESPN+ streaming decided to exclude only the Arsenal-Brighton match but would be streaming the rest of the matches in this round. Bizarre!

    I will take your starting eleven though I think we might see Vieira as the #10 and Marquinhos on the right. He seems to have regained fitness. Would be interesting to see which of the academy players are on the bench.

    Speaking of the academy, Balogun scored his eighth goal of the Ligue 1 season playing for a struggling Reims. Eddie will have serious competition next season for the second striker role, even if we don’t sign any other center forward.

    League cup may be the fourth priority of the team, but I think our second string should have enough motivation to live up to their talent and potential and manage a win at home. The football obviously won’t be as sumptuous as it was last weekend, but players like Vieira, Sambi, Reiss and Eddie will need to step up.

    Come on Arsenal!

  8. 8
    Countryman100 says:

    To my good GHF colleagues and others in the Goonerverse who are saying things like “the second string should be able to see off Brighton” I just remind you that they are 6th in the Prem, looking down on Chelsea and Liverpool? We are not playing a championship team here.

  9. 9
    Ollie says:

    The second string COULD be good enough ;-).
    I’m not bothered if we get kicked out. Long season.f Yes a trophy is a trophy, but recent FA Cups means I feel less starved.
    My traumas don’t go back as far as other people’s, just Chelsea (I wasn’t at that, just in the pub) and Birmingham.
    Oh yes, was at Citeh too, but that didn’t feel as traumatic, just fully expected at that time.
    Cheers, bath. I think you’re right we should mostly treat this the same way as Europa League matches. Your line-up sounds fine to me, with a strong bench to support.
    Also, consciously or not, main WC players might not be fully committed physically to this League Cup match.

  10. 10
    OsakaMatt says:

    10 changes it seems, Hein in goal and only WS keeps his place from the Chelsea game.
    Another start for Marquinhos.
    Cedric WS, Rob, KT
    Mo, Sambi
    Marquinhos, Eddie, Nelson
    Bench is full of first XI players.

    8 changes for Brighton so it seems it will be a test of squad depth. COYGs!!

  11. 11
    TTG says:

    Terrific preview at ultra short notice Bath, many thanks
    I was at Wembley in 1968 and 1969 and 1988 and 2011 and 2018. I’d think I was a jinx but I saw Tony drop Katya sorry Steve in 1993 . I really hope we win but if we don’t it won’t be a major concern .Arsene Wenger blames our loss to Chelsea in the Champions League on putting too strong a side out against United in the FA Cup semi a few days before . Look how Liverpool folded last year .
    Play the reserves and hope for the best

  12. 12
    North Bank Ned says:

    Hope looks to be coming up short, TTG

  13. 13
    North Bank Ned says:

    It has come up short. Just the three trophies then this season.

  14. 14
    bathgooner says:

    Thanks fellas. Listening to the game on .com was torture. Time to clutch the silver lining.

  15. 15
    OsakaMatt says:

    No idea what happened in the game but we are out regardless and the 100% home record for the season is gone. Unfortunate but maybe helpful in the coming months I suppose.

  16. 16
    ClockEndRider says:

    Report, from 21CG, should be up later. Disappointing performance from many. Stand outs were Nelson and an imperious Saliba. Nobody seemed too disappointed coming out of the ground, which was also emptying in anticipation of todays tube and train difficulties in London which invariably creates problems in the hours before. Brighton by far the better side to my mind and we are going to have to be very careful when our first team meets theirs.

  17. 17
    OsakaMatt says:

    Brighton away will be the first of a tricky run of 4 PL games from 31st December.

  18. 18
    Bathgooner says: