Arsenal continue on their hunt for silverware on Wednesday evening as they welcome Southampton to the Emirates in their EFL Cup quarter-final.
Arsene Wenger’s side, still unbeaten since the opening day of the Premier League season, have made good progress in every competition they’re in so far, already safely through to the knockout stages of the Champions League and three points off domestic league leaders Chelsea.
As such, the EFL Cup tends to take a back seat in terms of importance, and while Wenger will want to stay competitive in this competition, he will still have one eye on this weekend’s match against West Ham.
A number of fringe players and youngsters are therefore likely to find themselves in the starting eleven for the match, though Wenger will still expect his side to join Liverpool and Hull in the semi-finals.
So how will Arsenal line up on Wednesday? Below is a possible starting eleven.
Wenger has gone with the somewhat unorthodox tactic of picking three different goalkeepers for the three competitions they’ve entered so far. 24-year-old Martínez has spent six years at the Emirates, with only a handful of Premier League appearances to his name.
The tendency was to loan him out in years gone by, but by giving him some first team action in the EFL Cup, Wenger is keeping him happy as third choice in the major competitions.
Right Back: Ainsley Maitland-Niles
Centre-Back: Rob Holding
Left-Back: Kieran Gibbs
With Héctor Bellerín not due back until the end of December at the earliest and Mathieu Debuchy out of action for the foreseeable future, Arsenal are not exactly stacked with right-backs right now. Carl Jenkinson will likely start against West Ham on Sunday, so Wenger may deploy Maitland-Niles (who started in midfield against Reading in the last round) in defence on Wednesday.
Rob Holding, meanwhile, has found first team chances hard to come by recently. The 21-year-old was thrown in at the deep end by starting Arsenal’s first few games, but the £35m signing of Shkodran Mustafi has relegated him to the bench.
Gabriel has started both previous rounds but has seen limited game time otherwise. He made his first Premier League appearance of the season last weekend as an early replacement for Debuchy, and is likely to be given the not to start once again in the cup.
Gibbs is not only almost certain to start on the left, but will likely retain the armband from previous rounds.
Centre Midfield: Mohamed Elneny
Centre-Midfield: Granit Xhaka
Attacking Midfield: Aaron Ramsey
For a squad that generally has an abundance of central midfielders, Arsenal have surprisingly few options going into Wednesday’s game. Ramsey will be deployed further forward, Maitland-Niles further back, Jack Wilshere is away on loan, Santi Cazorla is still injured and Francis Coquelin will be rested.
This leaves Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny, neither of whom would be starting in Wenger’s first-choice starting lineup, as the likely pairing.
Ramsey is likely to play ahead of them, though Wenger may swap him with Jeff Reine-Adelaide on the right if he feels that that side of the pitch is lacking in experience with Maitland-Niles already at right-back.
Right Wing: Jeff Reine-Adelaide
Left Wing: Alex Iwobi
Striker: Lucas Pérez
Reine-Adelaide, a highly rated young forward, is yet to make his Premier League debut but has played in both rounds of this competition so far. The 18-year-old, in time-honoured Wenger tradition, is being blooded in the EFL Cup before being eased into competitive league action, and that will probably continue to be the case on Wednesday.
Iwobi, however, is already an established member of Arsenal’s first-team squad, but has lost his way a bit recently. He has not quite hit the heights of last last year’s breakout season, and has been in and out of the starting lineup as a result, but the 20-year-old will regain his confidence in time.
Lucas Pérez will almost certainly start up front. The Spanish striker has only recently recovered from an ankle injury but with Olivier Giroud missing out with a groin problem and Alexis Sánchez likely to be given a rest, Lucas could well be thrown right back into the deep end (though Theo Walcott is an alternative option).
Read More About: ainsley maitland-niles, Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal, arsenal news, efl cup, Emiliano Martinez, Gabriel Paulista, Granit Xhaka, Jeff Reine-Adelaide, kieran gibbs, lucas perez, Mohamed Elneny, rob holding, southampton