This game has come at the right time given the obvious tiredness from the first team, we also have a good few players itching to get some minutes so it's thumbs up all round, although I bet Alexis wouldn't think so. Would it be worth a cheeky punt via Draw no bet guide to see Alexis in the squad in the next round assuming we progress?
It's a great chance for the squad members to remind Arsene of their quality. The big man, Oliver Giroud is back in the squad for the first time in some weeks, man did we miss him in the final twenty minutes against Middlesbrough. It's a shame that Aaron Ramsey isn't yet back in time for this one too. I'm really excited to have him back in our set up but I'll have to be a little more patient I guess.
Giroud's return is rather interesting though. Our move away from the target man, instead opting for a mobile front line has brought us obvious rewards so far this season, so it may have been an ideal opportunity to give Lucas Perez a chance to lead the line once more, perhaps a chance to see how the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and perhaps the Jeff can replicate our first choice trio up front, but I don't see Giroud being left on the bench when he clearly needs minutes so we may well look a little different in our approach this evening.
Maybe Jeff Reine-Adelaide will play in the same playmaker role he adopted in the last round against Nottingham Forest.
I don't see how any of the players who started against Boro will start this evening and I don't even see our top players sitting on the bench, that was the case in the last round and I fully expect them to have their feet up at home, sipping hot chocolate or whatever warm (or cold) beverage takes their fancy.
I lied about something above, after having thought about our team. we will more than likely have at least one starter from the weekend. Xhaka's suspension means that Mohamed Elneny will more than likely start again tonight. From an embarrassment of riches in the middle of the park one moment to a list of absentees. Rambo is not yet ready to play, Xhaka taking one for the team, Cazorla injured and Wilshere playing in the South coast, it looks as if Arsene may have to dip his hand back into the established crew, unless of course he wants to risk going with younger players who may not quite be up to the physical challenge of the Arsenal first team. Who plays alongside Elneny will be rather interesting, will Arsene take the risk and play Coquelin? Quite possibly. At least he knows that Xhaka and Ramsey are not far away from returning now so maybe that lessens the risk a little, I don't know.
Mean Lean's Predicted Line Up:
Maitland-Niles Gabriel Holding Gibbs
Oxlade-Chamberlain Reine-Adelaide Lucas
I am intrigued to see how young Maitland-Niles gets on down the right in place of Bellerin. He looked like a pretty good imitation of Hector against Forest and hopefully he will get more of a chance to express himself going forward on home turf.
On a personal note this should make for a special night for myself as I am taking my 9 year old son to his first evening game, nothing quite beats an evening trip to the Arsenal. I don't think he is very happy with Arsene though as he was kinda desperate to watch Alexis Sanchez play.
If the game is anything like the crazy cup tie a few years ago then I'm sure he will be able to let the Alexis absence slide somewhat.
Hopefully the second side or squad members can find their groove just as they did so well at Forest, I don't know how Reading compare to that Forest side at that stage of the season, I'm hoping they do not have another Henry Lansbury kicking anything in a red shirt that moves.
I'm hoping we can win and win well and shake the weekend draw out of our system.