Arsenal will continue their Carabao Cup journey when they host League One side, Sunderland, in the quarterfinals at the Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal have been in superb form, securing three wins in a row in eight days. Since their Premier League defeat to Everton, Mikel Arteta’s side have gone on a winning spree, conceding just once during that period. They have a Carabao Cup quarterfinal date with Sunderland on Tuesday, as the manager eyes progression into the next round.
The decision to strip Pierre-Emerick Aubameyag of the captaincy continued to grab headlines during the week. However, Arteta & co. responded in style by securing wins over Southampton, West Ham United and most recently Leeds United. Those results could be the best possible preparation for the Carabao Cup tie.
However, there is a level of concern regarding the game itself after most of the Premier League fixtures at the weekend were called off amid rising Covid cases. Although, as things stand, this game has the go-ahead from the authorities, which should be a good thing for Arsenal, who aim to maintain the winning momentum.
The visitors, Sunderland, have managed to evade top-flight opponents in this competition so far. Port Vale, Blackpool and Wigan have fallen to defeats at the hands of the Black Cats in this competition, although they must be ruing the quality of their opponent after the quarterfinal draw.
Sunderland are having a decent season in League One, where they sit third courtesy of a seven-game unbeaten run stitched together under the guidance of manager Lee Johnson. However, they could only manage a 1-1 draw with Ipswich at the weekend. The Black Cats have endured a difficult period with cup ties during the season, after successive losses in the EFL Trophy and a premature FA Cup exit.
Team News & Tactics
Arteta could use the occasion of the cup tie to rest most of his regulars and hand starts to the fringe stars in the squad. The Gunners have fielded the same starting lineup for four games running, the first time under this manager, and as many as ten of those players could be rested.
There will be an altogether different backline against Sunderland, with Bernd Leno set to come back in the side. Nuno Tavares is the likely candidate for the left-back spot, while Rob Holding and Calum Chambers could form the central defensive pairing. Cedric could get a rare start in place of Takehiro Tomiyasu at right-back.
Mohamed Elneny should be the ideal candidate for a midfield role alongside forgotten man Ainsley Maitland-Niles. The nature of the clash could let Arteta rest Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka a rest ahead of two crucial games in the Premier League incoming in a busy 48-hour period.
Albert Sambi Lokonga and Pablo Mari had tested positive ahead of their previous clash with Leeds, while Sead Kolasinac is the only injury-enforced absentee.
In attack, Emile Smith Rowe could come into the starting lineup for the first time since the Manchester United loss. He could slot into the No. 10 role. Eddie Nketiah and Nicolas Pepe are expected to take up wide attacking positions. Arteta could also start Folarin Balogun in the leading striker role ahead of Alexandre Lacazette, who is unlikely to be risked here.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Leno; Cedric, Chambers, Holding, Tavares; Maitland-Niles, Elneny; Pepe, Smith-Rowe, Nketiah; Balogun
Manager Lee Johnson would have wanted a fully fit squad to face the challenge of Arsenal as they travel to north London with potentially five key players out of this clash. Three of those are certainly missing the encounter as Leon Dajaku, Aiden McGeady, and Luke O’Nien are out with their respective injury problems.
Dennis Cirkin and Corry Evans are also deemed doubtful for the encounter, having only recently returned to full training after some time out on the sidelines. Although a late assessment could be on the cards, the duo may not be ready in time for this clash. Johnson will be particularly aggrieved about Dajaku, who was forced off against Ipswich at the weekend.
However, from the looks of it, Johnson will be a bit pragmatic in his approach to the game with a back three and a midfield five, the likely setup against an attack-minded Arsenal side.
Lynden Gooch and Denver Hume are likely to play in the wing-back roles, while Johnson is likely to go with the strike partnership of Ross Stewart and Nathan Broadhead up top against Arsenal.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Burge; Wright, Flanagan, Doyle; Hume, Pritchard, Neil, Embleton, Gooch; Stewart, Broadhead
- Sunderland are on a seven-game unbeaten streak in League One.
- Sunderland are the only lower league side left in this season’s EFL Cup.
- Arsenal have scored 11 goals and conceded none in this season’s EFL Cup across the three games they have played.
- The Gunners come into the clash, winning three consecutive Premier League games.
- Arsenal have won the EFL Cup twice in their long and illustrious history.
Player to Watch
Something brewing in the background has kept Pepe out of the starting lineup for a stretch of games in recent weeks. The Ivorian’s drastic drop down the pecking order has not been discussed due to Bukayo Saka’s imperious performances on the right-wing. In fact, in some games, Arteta chose to bring on Eddie Nketiah when his team could have done well with Pepe’s qualities on the pitch.
It could be a potential fallout with the manager or a lack of training application, but Pepe seems to have become an afterthought for Arteta of late. However, he could get a rare chance against Sunderland to show the gaffer he still has the qualities to perform at the highest level and become a key component of the team from now on.
Arsenal 3-0 Sunderland
There is a huge gulf in the two divisions the sides are playing in regularly, which will be a key factor during the game. Arsenal may have to start with a whole new lineup, which has not played much in the Premier League this season, barring Emile Smith Rowe, but they are still too good for this Sunderland team.
The Gunners have solid potential upfront as the presence of Nicolas Pepe, Smith Rowe, and even Folarin Balogun could yield plenty of goals. Meanwhile, all the defensive players coming into the side will have a point to prove; hence, they will do their best to keep a clean sheet. The Hard Tackle predicts Arsenal to sweep the Black Cats aside and progress into the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup.