Bernd Leno and Alexandre Lacazette could come into the starting lineup when Arsenal host AFC Wimbledon in the EFL Cup third round.
Arsenal have a midweek clash to look forward to as they host AFC Wimbledon at the Emirates in the EFL Cup third round tie. Mikel Arteta could use this game to rotate his squad heavily and give breathers to some of his tired playing staff.
The game could open up opportunities for some fringe stars who have seen less game time in the last few weeks. Arteta would mainly want to keep some of his key stars under wraps for the weekend’s North London Derby, with plenty on the line apart from just bragging rights.
Thomas Partey and Kieran Tierney suffered from cramps against Burnley and will certainly get rested. However, Arteta could still give the Ghanaian some minutes off the bench to keep him sharp for Sunday. Mohamed Elneny remains out with a hamstring problem, while Granit Xhaka serves the last of his three-match suspension.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Sambi Lokonga could start together in central midfield after assured performances against Norwich City and off the bench against Burnley. Behind them in defence, Bernd Leno could start in place of Aaron Ramsdale, who took over from the German for the last two Premier League fixtures.
Pablo Mari and Rob Holding could form the central defensive partnership, while Calum Chambers likely to be chosen ahead of Cedric Soares at right-back. Nuno Tavares remains the obvious choice to replace Kieran Tierney at left-back, despite Sead Kolasinac’s presence.
Arteta, in the pre-match interview, stated he might want to retain the attacking shape of the team. He said, “I hope that we can expect goals from our side, but it’s true that [Wimbledon have had] really open games with high scores. [We must] focus. Focus, demand the highest standards, prepare the same way or even better.”
Arteta may be compelled to play some of his accomplished attacking players in the lineup to keep that attacking threat intact. That includes Nicolas Pepe, Alexandre Lacazette and Emile Smith Rowe. Lacazette has somewhat struggled for form this season, and a game like Wimbledon should help sharpen his tools.
Gabriel Martinelli could also start in this game and should take up the left side of the attack. There is also the presence of Folarin Balogun in the squad, who is itching to play regular football with the first-team, but it does look like he may be an option from the bench.
Predicted Arsenal XI: Leno; Chambers, Holding, Mari, Tavares; Lokonga, Maitland-Niles; Pepe, Smith Rowe, Martinelli; Lacazette