For this evening’s EFL Cup third-round tie against Nottingham Forest at the City Ground, Arsene Wenger is expected to make wholesale changes to his regular squad. In turn, this means that several youth players are expected to be given a chance to prove their worth, in a competition that Wenger has used to test out his fringe players before; with varying success.
Under 21 starlets such as Chuba Akpom, Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Chris Willock are all in line to feature tonight, alongside some of the more experienced, first-team personnel - as Wenger sets his sights on getting the better of Chelsea on Saturday evening.
Polish holding midfielder Krystian Bielik may also make an appearance in what would be his first senior start, after joining from Legia Warsaw in January 2015 for the sum of £2.4 million.
Wenger happy with Hull victory
The clash also gives Wenger a chance to rest his star players after three tough games in one week, that saw two wins and a draw. Arsenal’s victory over Hull City on Saturday, along with favourable results elsewhere, sees Wenger’s side stay in the top four for the first time this season.
Speaking about the impact of the win, Wenger said: “It can help our confidence because we had a shocking start. Now I think we are over it psychologically and hopefully we can build on that.”
Last year saw Wednesday woes
Wenger was lambasted for giving his youth a chance in the competition last year, his inexperienced side sinking to a comprehensive 3-0 loss to Sheffield Wednesday in Round 4. The game saw the only senior minutes to date for players such as Ismael Bennacer, Glen Kamara and Bielik as well.
Keen to avoid a repeat of the debacle, Wenger is expected to use senior players such as Kieran Gibbs, Mathieu Debuchy, the returning Gabriel, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and David Ospina - who impressed in Arsenal’s opening Champions League game against Paris Saint-Germain a little under a week ago.
Akpom set to shoulder responsibility
But, with Lucas Perez likely to start on the bench, and Olivier Giroud missing through a toe injury, Akpom could find himself leading the line; a good chance to prove that his manager was right not to send him out on loan, and instead stay in order to fight for a Premier League starting berth.
However, by giving the youth a chance in the first team, Arsenal’s Under 21 season suffered, Everton putting them to the sword, taking a 5-0 victory yesterday evening.
It looks to be a positive time to face wounded Forest, who are winless in their last three games. A loss today would mean that The Reds are still in danger of ending September without a triumph.