After Arsenal’s 3-1 defeat to Liverpool in the Premier League, attention has quickly turned to their EFL Cup match-up later in the week.
For the most part on Tuesday morning (Australian time), Arsenal was second best against perhaps the best team in world football. The first half was nothing short of incredible from Liverpool and Arsenal simply did not deal with it well.
The second half, however, was a much different affair as the Gunners held their own against the champions on their home turf. It will give the squad confidence knowing they can match it with the champions, if only for a half, but this cup tie presents a great opportunity to test themselves yet again.
The inspired substitution of Dani Ceballos completely changed the game, certainly from an Arsenal perspective. In the first half, Arsenal barely got on the ball at all but after the introduction of Ceballos, he was the main driving force going forward, picking out Alexandre Lacazette twice in the space of three minutes, only for the Frenchman to have both shots saved.
It was this type of impact that has us thinking about the changes Mikel Arteta could make for the EFL Cup tie.
I would like to see Eddie Nketiah starting, along with Bakayo Saka, Gabriel, Reiss Nelson as well as Dani Ceballos. I am hoping that we finally get to see William Saliba in action in the first team, but this might be throwing him in the deep end before he is ready, so we might have to wait for his proper debut.
So, let’s go through all the changes that could be made.
Does new signing Runar Runarsson get the nod in goal for his first appearance or does that fall to Matt Macey? Either way, I am happy to see our backup options behind Bernd Leno as they fight for the number two spot behind the German.
As mentioned previously, the defence was shaky as best in the first half against Liverpool but managed to get it together in the second. I am expecting changes with Gabriel Magalhaes to come in as well as Cedric Soares. At the time of writing Sead Kolasinac is off to Bayern Leverkusen in the next 48 hours, so it could be plausible to see Bukayo Saka on the left side of the defence if Kieran Tierney is rested.
There could be a couple of changes to the backline for this tie. It could consist of Cedric, Gabriel, with either David Luiz, William Saliba, or Rob Holding with Saka possibly on the left with Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney being rested.
Arsenal went with Granit Xhaka and Mo Elneny against Liverpool so one or if not, both will likely be rested in the EFL Cup which brings up the question of who comes in? There are a few options, most notably Ceballos as he is the most likely to be able to pick the lock on Liverpool’s defence.
One can only speculate on how big a difference he could have made had he been starting as his impact was huge in the second half. Joe Willock is another who will most likely get a start as he has shown he is more than capable in either role – playing as a central attacking midfielder, and as one who can sit deeper in a more defensive role to break up plays.
We have most likely seen the last of Lucas Torreira, Mesut Ozil, and Matteo Guendouzi as it is unlikely that Arteta will risk them getting injured as the club look to move the trio on. We will see both Willock and Ceballos in the cup tie and we could even see Mo Elneny again, as well as Xhaka, although Xhaka is more likely to be rested to be ready for the weekend’s Premier League clash.
Up front there is no question that Eddie Nketiah will get the start and will most likely have Pepe and Reiss Nelson on either side of him, with both Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang rested. There may be a spot for one of the established attackers on Arteta’s bench, or perhaps even Folarin Balogun will be a substitute.
Arteta have some changes to make as the games are coming thick and fast. Depending on what system and formation the Spaniard uses, hopefully we get another chance to see some of our younger stars strut their stuff against Liverpool because last time they got their chance, it was a sight to behold.