Debuts, returns and a battle of shorts.‏


Tonight see’s Owen Coyle’s Bolton Wanderers return to North London in the Carling Cup a month after going down three nil during their Premier League visit.
With the Gunners on a good run of six victories in the last seven matches, a run that stretches back to the 3-1 win over Shrewsbury in the previous round, a win tonight would see Arsene Wenger’s side book a quarter-final place for the ninth consecutive year.
Ahead of the game the gaffer has been talking about last seasons League Cup final defeat at the hands of Birmingham City and has suggested that it will be impossible for him to ever overcome the hurt of that defeat telling
“Yes [the Birmingham game] will hurt me forever because we never forget disappointments, that’s part of life at managerial level, you do not only have successes but disappointments too”
Whilst it may not completely banish the memory of  Obafemi Martin’s late winner I would imagine that seeing his side once again reach Wembley and go on to finally win the competition would go some way to numbing the pain. It’s quite amazing the amount of grief Wenger has been given for not taking this competition seriously during his time at the club but as I said above, we could reach the last eight for the ninth consecutive year.
During that time we’ve also reached two finals, I could be wrong but I can’t imagine any other side has had more success in the countries secondary cup competition during that period. Wenger himself maintains that he always takes the competition seriously saying –
“We have always taken the competition seriously” (Well I told you that’s what he said)
The Frenchman went on to say – “We use it as an opportunity to give a chance to some young players and people relate that to not taking it seriously but it is the opposite”
“Because we take it seriously we want to always offer two things – the desire to win and the opportunity for our fans to see some of the players who represent the future for this club
I really don’t think you can argue with that, if we were merely handing out first team debuts to our whole starting eleven and crashing out in our first game then you could criticise but the truth is most of the top sides and even a clutch of smaller clubs have gone on to follow suit and replicate our philosophy. The difference with Arsenal is that the quality of players we field, those ‘kids’ and ‘reserves’, are still a class above what other clubs have to offer when it comes to those categories.
Tonight will see that tradition of blending youth and experience continue and on paper we look set to field what I think is an exciting side and one I’m looking forward to seeing.
We’ll see Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain come back into the team and if he performs anywhere near the level he produced on his full debut against the Shrews that in itself will make for an exciting evening, but alongside AOC we’re also set to see the return of Thomas Vermaelan make his return from a two month injury lay-off.
It’s seems as if it will be down to the boss to decide between the Belgian and young Spaniard Iggy Miquel for the left back position. Whilst neither player is a natural in the role, we’re in a position where we need to make do and mend as such and while one of the pair will be an auxiliary fullback for the evening the other looks set to partner another returnee, Seb Squillaci, at centre half. How timely that the man who looks like Skeletor returns from injury as we approach Halloween…
We can expect to see young Nico Yennaris make his debut at right back and make up the back four with Skellaci, Tommy and Iggy while Lukasz Fabianski will once again take his place between the sticks. The Pole has recently spoken of his desire to regain a regular starting birth in goal ahead of countryman Wojciech Szczesny in the build up to Euro 2012 and whilst it would take something spectacular from Fabs and something catastrophic from Szcz for that to happen it doesn’t hurt to have one player chomping at anothers heels, it can only boost the performances of both which is good for the club.
I expect we’ll see Emmanuel Frimpong and Franny Coquelin start in the middle but I’m not overly sure who’ll make up the midfield trio, I’ve heard suggestions of Thomas Rosicky but the Czech isn’t in the 18 man sqaud so that rules him out. It seems likely then that Yossi Benayoun will come in to add a touch of experience alongside the two youngsters.
I’ve already mentioned AOC, he’ll take his place on the right of our front three alongside Ju Young Park in the middle and Andrey Arshavin on the left (I’m guessing)
As I said yesterday we could really do with the South Korean replicating his international form and providing a tangible alternative to RVP if and when we should need one. It’s been a little surprising that he, AOC and Benny have seen their first team chances limited considering they are three of our few summer signings so they all have a point to prove tonight and hopefully they’ll all take their chance. It’s also a great chance for Arshavin to try and turn his recent cameo apperances in the league into something a bit more substantial, it’s certainly no good having the Russian replecating his performance in France last week.
It’s a strong side (if I’m right that is) and one I’m very much looking forward to watching. As well as the players I’ve mentioned above the squad also includes Ryo, Vito Mannone, Jernade Meade, Oguzahn Ozyakup, Sanchez Watt, Chuks Aneke and Daniel Boateng. Hopefully we can see Ryo & Chuks get a dedent run out at some stage too.
I’ve no idea what sort of side Owen Coyle will field this evening, the Trotters are really struggling and the Scot could either send out a strong side in the hope that a cup run will help reinvigorate their league form or he’ll give his senior players a breather and a send out a second string. To be honest I’m not too fussed I think our side should have enough to see off any whatever team they face tonight and if I’m honest I’m more intrigued by the battle of the shorts between Coyle and Pat Rice…
It’s bound to be cold tonight, because it’s late October and that’s how things work, and with both men favouring a pair of shorts and proving that they’re real men, real old school football men, I do wonder if one or indeed both will back down or if they’ll stand toe to toe…
I most certainly won’t be wearing shorts, I’ll be wrapped up nice and warm and if I get cold I’ll just ask Big Dave to put his arms around me…
Ok, I’m going now before this turns weird(er)…
Enjoy the game, and if you’ve not got a ticket but fancy getting down to support the Gunners you can do so by clicking here.
Thanks for reading.

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