Carabao Cup Semi-finals : How Mikel Arteta should line up a Squad – Sportsleo


Carabao Cup semi-finals

Arsenal predicted line-up against Liverpool as Emile Smith Rowe is set to start while Charlie Patino misses out in their Carabao Cup semi-finals leg at Anfield.

It is so difficult to recall a time when predicting what team Mikel Arteta plans to field for an Arsenal game was this hard. With a mixture of injuries, Covid-19 absence cases, Africa Cup of Nations, AFCON absentees and the significance of Sunday’s North London Derby in the race for the Premier League top four, suggests that getting this line-up right is not really easy and fine balancing act for the Spaniard.

Carabao Cup semi-finals

                         Arsenal players during a past match.Photo courtesy: Getty Images.

How to Prioritise matches is now no more a luxury as Arsenal can manage after a spate of false-positive Covid-19 tests in the Liverpool camp saw last week’s originally scheduled first leg called off, something Arteta has agreed has been to the detriment of his preparedness for the match.

Dynamics change over the timing of the matches become somehow different for the Spaniard in his pre-match press conference.
Even as this becomes potentially Gunner’s penultimate cup game of the season after their shock FA Cup exit following the hands of Nottingham Forest on Sunday, one can easily tell that this is a game where Bernd Leno has to play regardless of the fact that Arteta is expected to make a pretty choice on the pitch.

If he may be fully recovered following his tight calf then Takehiro Tomiyasu will have to come back and be among the starting squad. Arteta has appeared to be extending an olive branch to Nuno Tavares following his unceremoniously hooking him only halfway into Sunday’s defeat at the City pitch.

There are some things that tend to happen in football and one has to make the right choice. The fact that one has to come up with the right choice on the day of his side gives Arteta even more encouragement to assist them citing that he has been there and has substitutes to bring in after 45 minutes and sometimes he gets upset for making wrong decisions in his life.

Midfield has always been considered part where the biggest conundrum lies for Arteta though. Charlie Patino has never been particularly bad in the defeat to Forest but looked like someone who was making his first senior start as he struggled to influence the match as much as he would have wished.

Telling him to make just his second start in the cauldron atmosphere of Anfield would surely be too enough for the 18-year-old, but beyond him, he seems to have minimum options. While football, London understands that Arsenal is exploring a loan move for Juventus’ Arthur Melo up to the end of the season, which may not be agreed before Thursday night.

It has not yet been clear if Granit Xhaka will be present for the match, with Arteta seemingly suggesting that he had an opportunity to start. Sheer mathematics though in terms of the days he has been missing from London Colney suggests that this may be nothing more than gamesmanship from the Spaniard.

Albert Sambi Lokonga will be among the squad regardless of his own underwhelming and unambitious display at the City Ground, so making a choice who starts alongside him in the midfield double pivot will be so important.

One can tell that whether Calum Chambers was being considered as an option there then he would have been given a chance to run at Forest, so it looks like a far more likely option is that Martin Odegaard may be in the deeper role.

The Norwegian had to struggle when asked to fill in during Xhaka’s injury missing earlier at the start of the season, and instructing him to do so with Lokonga against probably the best pressing club across the global football is far from ideal.

With this we may probably see Emile Smith Rowe coming back into the number 10 position, presuming that he is available after skipping Forest with a tight groin.

On his right, Bukayo Saka may start yet another match with Nicolas Pepe who is away on AFCON duty and Flo Balogun moving to Middlesbrough on loan until the season ends, while Gabriel Martinelli is expected to dribble and be more useful in transition in a match where the Arsenal needs players with a greater impact of moving fast.


In the upfront, Alexandre Lacazette would have been expected to be at his best in terms of possessing the ball in what is likely to be a crowded central area if the Gunners are to stand any chance of yielding any good result from this match, especially after Eddie Nketiah’s below-par display made a number of people to crave for the deal for centre-forward Dusan Vlahovic to be concluded soon.



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