If Southampton play their strongest team tonight, we could be in for a hell of a game. Only a few seasons ago they knocked us out at the Emirates in this very competition. Alexis scored with a sensational freekick that night but it’s safe to say that he will not take part in the squad tonight.
Oliver Giroud is also out with a hamstring injury which is rather unfortunate for him as it would have been the perfect occasion to get another start after being knocked down the pecking order by Alexis Sanchez.
So it is great that Lucas Perez is back ready to play once more, our striking options are very limited at the moment so the Spaniards return is timely to say the least. You get the feeling that there is a lot that we have not seen from him so far and we need him to kick on with the second half of the season fast approaching.
It’s going to be pretty much all change tonight apart from the midfield and that will be the most interesting selection of the night I reckon.
One midfield combination we have yet to see is the Ramsey and Xhaka partnership. Arsene may have been reluctant to pair them together in such high stake games in the Premier League and Champions League where unfamiliarity in such an important position could be football suicide. But the EFL cup could be the ideal stage to give them a chance to test the waters.
Aaron Ramsey made his first central midfield start against PSG and it looked as if he really reigned in his desire to play in the final third. He was snapping into tackles, made more passes than any other Arsenal player, made more ball recoveries than any of his teammates etc. Meanwhile Xhaka has impressed in his last two starts for Arsenal, improving on his defensive contributions and still showing his excellent passing range. That diagonal pass for Alexis eh? Woof!
We may as well give it a bash Arsene and see what they can do, unless of course it has been trash in training so far and we all don’t know about it. The trouble is Francis Coquelin has been one of the first names of Arsene’s team sheet to date and he was rested on the weekend so what gives? Maybe Ramsey will replace Ozil in the team and Xhaka could partner Coquelin. Maybe Arsene will want to continue with the younger Ainsley Maitland-Niles who impressed in that role in the last round against Reading.
I don’t bloody know.
Mean Lean’s Predicted Hopeful Line Up:
It will be a tough decision because Arsene not only has to think about tonight's match but the fixtures coming up, the opposition he will be facing and what tools would be best suited for those games. So whatever his selection, he would have thought long and hard about each decision in every position. I would have quite liked to have seen 'ol Ainsley at right back after his performance there against Nottingham Forest earlier in the competition. Yes the opposition will be far harder tonight but that display at the City ground was the best impersonation of Hector Bellerin thus far. Carl Jenkinson will likely be restored at right back though.
It should be quite an even game, hopefully we can do enough to get through and not pick up anymore injuries.