Tonight sees us take on Newcastle at St. James Park and it looks like being a strong squad, much like the manager used in the previous round. It is clear that the manager has finally realised that this team needs to win a trophy, any trophy, in order to instill a winning mentality in the squad.
It is highly likely that Fabregas, Nasri, Arshavin and Chamakh will be rested for the game, but it seems likely that all other fit players will be in contention to play some part in the squad, with Lansbury, Eastmond, Szczesny and JET joining them.
Team news is that Walcott, Szczesny and Koscielny will start. Therefore, I expect the starting line-up to be something along the lines of Szczesny, Eboue, Koscielny, Djourou, Gibbs, Lansbury, Eastmond, Denilson, Walcott, Vela and Bendtner. That would leave us with a reasonably strong bench including the likes of Rosicky, Diaby, JET and Fabianski. I haven’t seen the squad list for tonight yet, but am assuming that Eastmond will be included.
I’m glad Ben Arfa is unavailable for Newcastle tonight. It’ll be interesting to see if Big Sol plays and, if so, whether the movement of our players will cause him problems.
The strength of the squad for tonight’s game is evidence of the new seriousness with which the club is treating even the lowliest of the cup competitions this year. I think that it is no coincidence that the year we start taking the cups seriously coincides with the clearing of all of the property debt on Highbury Square and the rosy financial future that lies ahead on the back of a soundly run club and a stadium loan that is long-term, at a fixed rate, and easily manageable.
This sound financial position means that there is no longer the absolute necessity for the manager to blood youngsters in the cup in order to fast track them into the first team. There is money available, should it need to be spent. Furthermore, the players that have been playing in the cup for the past few seasons are now developed enough to make telling contributions when they play. Add all that to the fact that the team is at the point when it needs to feel the sensation of winning something and you get to where we are this season, playing fairly strong teams in the Carling Cup.
One thing that the club and the fans should be applauded for over the last few years is that, despite everyone knowing that we would field a young team in the Carling Cup, the games were always sold out at the Emirates. The club played their part in this by offering the tickets at a reduced price. Not many clubs sell out their league games, let alone their Carling Cup games. So, a big well done to all concerned and especially to those fans that have been able to go to those games. The last game I was able to go to was the Carling Cup semi-final second leg against Wigan at Highbury. We went out on the night after conceding a very late goal, but it was good in that it was the only Carling Cup game that Henry played in while with us. I miss the buzz of attending games. I miss Highbury.
Anyway, it is clear that the manager has high hopes for JET and Lansbury. It would be great if both of those can make it at Arsenal and would be a sickener for the pundits and managers that say that Arsenal are just a team of foreigners. There is the very real possibility that over the next few season we could possibly have a team comprising the likes of Walcott, Gibbs, Wilshere and one or two of Lansbury, JET, Afobe, Watt and Eastmond. Either way, I think it is fair to say that the days of Arsenal fielding a team, or naming a squad, that contains no English players is gone.
It’s hard to not get carried away when watching these players and talking about them. However, I think that we need to exercise a bit of caution with the young players as they haven’t yet proved that they are the finished article and haven’t achieved anything yet. I think that part of the over-enthusiasm for these players, and the expectations we have for them, stems in part from having seen them being in or around the Carling Cup team for the last few seasons and we are waiting for them to make the final step. But, as of right now, they are just potentially great players. Only time will tell if they make it to the top level with Arsenal but I have to say that I just love watching them develop and play.
Right, that’s about all I have time for today. Have to get my arse out of this Starbucks and go do some work.
Here’s to a win tonight. Take it easy.