Arsenal will be eager to progress further in the Carabao Cup as they host AFC Wimbledon at the Emirates for their third-round clash.
Arsenal face AFC Wimbledon in the Carabao Cup third-round clash at the Emirates, with Mikel Arteta hopeful of a straightforward entry into the next stage. The game also offers the north London fanbase a midweek football experience, which they are deprived of due to Arsenal’s inability to qualify for European tournaments.
The Gunners were at their destructive best in the previous round of the tournament, thrashing West Brom 6-0 away from home. Arteta has also overseen his club’s return to winning ways in the league following consecutive victories over Norwich and Burnley in recent weeks.
The midweek cup clash provides Arteta to rotate his squad heavily and give some of the fringe stars a chance to showcase their pedigree on the pitch. Arsenal will certainly take this tournament seriously, more than they have over the years, as it represents a genuine chance to lift a trophy.
Visiting side AFC Wimbledon, irrespective of their result against Arsenal, will have reached the farthest stage in this tournament in their history. However, manager Mark Robinson will be dreaming of an unlikely upset at the Emirates to take his team into the next round of the Carabao Cup.
Wimbledon started their League One campaign rather brightly but lost a bit of momentum last weekend with a narrow defeat to Plymouth Argyle at home. They sit seventh in the league table with a collection of 12 points from eight games so far, four points behind table-toppers Wigan Athletic.
In the Carabao Cup, Wimbledon have progressed courtesy of two 1-0 victories over Charlton Athletic and Northampton Town. They might come to the Emirates as the underdogs but dream of playing at their best and pile on some more pressure on Arteta.
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Arteta could take the opportunity to rotate his starting lineup from the Burnley clash and provide some needed rest to regulars. The manager could name a completely different starting XI for the EFL Cup tie and give his fringe stars a chance to shine.
Mohamed Elneny remains the only injury absentee as he nears a return to training. Granit Xhaka will again be missing, as he serves the last of his three-match ban following his red card against Manchester City. Meanwhile, Kieran Tierney and Thomas Partey, who suffered cramps, could be rested.
Alternatively, if Arteta feels the need to give some minutes to Partey, the Ghanaian might be involved from the bench at some stage. Bernd Leno could come back into the lineup after losing his Premier League spot to new signing Aaron Ramsdale in the last two games.
Arteta has options in Calum Chambers and Cedric Soares to play at right-back, while Rob Holding could return alongside Pablo Mari to lead the central defence. Nuno Tavares could play left-back in place of Tierney.
There are also reports suggesting Arteta could include academy sensation Charlie Patino in the matchday squad. It could be possible after plenty of hype surrounding the teenage midfielder, but it remains to be seen if the manager affords him any minutes.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Albert Sambi Lokonga proved they could work effectively as a midfield pairing against Norwich, and Arteta will likely give them another shot. Bukayo Saka, who has been a little out of form lately, could make way for Gabriel Martinelli to start on the left side of the attack.
Arteta might give some more minutes to 19-year-old striker Folarin Balogun, with the manager inclined to pick Alexandre Lacazette from the start. Nicolas Pepe and Emile Smith Rowe could be the only players from the Burnley game to remain in the lineup.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Leno; Chambers, Holding, Mari, Tavares; Lokonga, Maitland-Niles; Pepe, Smith Rowe, Martinelli; Lacazette
Mark Robinson will be relieved to have no new injury problems to deal with, although he will tinker with his squad to field the strongest possible lineup. The manager will keep his team’s shape with a back four, hoping to stop Arsenal’s quality attackers.
Midfielder Jack Rudoni was considered a doubt earlier, but it seems like Robinson could include him from the start. Paul Kalambayi has been nursing a muscular injury and remains out for at least six weeks.
Left-back Paul Osew was expected back in training this week, and if fit, Robinson will straightaway pick him in the team. However, Henry Lawrence would start in in the position of Osew is deemed doubtful for this clash. In this scenario, Cheye Alexander could keep his place at right-back.
Premier League loanees Aaron Pressley and Dapo Mebude could also push for a start in the side. However, Robinson might be wary of their inexperience and the quality of the opposition to pick alternatives.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Tzanev; Alexander, Heneghan, Nightingale, Lawrence; Woodyard, Hartigan; Rudoni, Chislett, Assal; Pressley
- Arsenal have kept a clean sheet in their last two games in the league.
- The Gunners last won the League Cup in 1993 and recently reached the 2017-18 Final.
- Arsenal and AFC Wimbledon last played a competitive game back on 1st April 2000, with the Gunners victorious.
- Wimbledon last recorded a win over Arsenal on 28th November 1998, in the Premier League.
- Both teams have played each other 28 times since 1987, with Arsenal leading the head-to-head with 13 wins.
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Alexandre Lacazette has been one of the more consistent players in this Arsenal squad since he joined the club back in 2017. While Arteta likes the Frenchman’s battling style of play, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang remains his first choice to lead the line this season.
Lacazette failed to move away this summer and will have to serve as a backup this season. However, the Carabao Cup clash will come as a chance to surprise the manager by scoring goals and leading his team into the next round, which should help him earn more regular opportunities over the course of the season.
Arsenal 3-0 AFC Wimbledon
The Gunners are clear favourites to win this third-round clash and advance into the tournament’s next stage. The gulf between the quality of players on both teams is evident, and despite Arteta planning on naming his fringe stars, they should be victorious.
Wimbledon will be dreaming of causing an upset, but the chances of that happening are unlikely. The likes of Lacazette, Martinelli and Pepe will prove a difficult match for their defenders, who would be hoping to concede fewer goals than the prediction above.