Arsenal have big aspirations this year and there’s plenty of reason for their optimism. Their form has been the highest it’s been in years, or at least since when Robin van Persie wore the Gunner kit. However, the fact remains that Arséne Wenger’s side have failed to win any silverware in eight years, and ending that streak is their only goal for now.
Arsenal take on Chelsea today at Emirates Stadium in North London for the fourth round of the Capital One Cup, and with more important matches on the horizon such as Champions League play and the English Premier League, Arsenal are planning on playing second and third-tier players. Arsenal take on Liverpool this weekend in league play and then head to Germany to face Borussia Dortmund on November 6 in what will be a crucial Champions League matchup.
Wenger certainly knows that winning the Capital One Cup is not the highest on the pecking order — finishing in the top four of the league to qualify for the Champions League and winning the Champions League come before it — but it wouldn’t be bad for the Gunners to pick up a trophy in London.
Many take Wenger fielding a first eleven likely including 18-year-old German Serge Gnabry to be a sign of surrender, but if you’ve been watching closely you would be aware of how well Gnabry has performed for the Gunners so far. His inclusion shouldn’t be seen as anything more than getting him some experience. The back line for Arsenal might only feature one regular in Per Mertesacker and the midfield will be without Mathieu Flamini and Mikel Arteta — so it will be a limited club facing a strong Chelsea side. However, Chelsea boss José Mourinho is likely to make many changes to his lineup as well.
Eight years ago Arsenal picked up the FA Cup trophy, but have nothing to show since. It’s more important for a strong club like Arsenal who have gone so long without silverware to win a competition like the Capital One Cup. If nothing else, it’d give a team full of Champions League dreams and League title hopes some inspiration as both competitions are starting to pick up steam.
Finding a good balance will be the key for Arsenal. Gnabry is a fine player but Wenger will need to keep players like Mesut Özil, Olivier Giroud and Jack Wilshere on the pitch longer than he probably wants to if they’re to come away with the win. Aaron Ramsey should see time on the pitch as well (a late-game knockout situation would be best for the 22-year-old Welshmen).
Elsewhere in the competition, Manchester United take on Norwich City which will be a competitive match given United’s lack of interest in the competition and City’s desire to win anything it can get its hands on. United will likely play very few recognizable names. Birmingham City take on Stoke City, Burnley take on West Ham United, and Leicester City host Fulham.