As usual, Arsenal field a weak side for the League Cup semi-final
first leg at Wigan tonight. Probably even weaker than the
side we used in the FA Cup on Saturday.|
Arsene Wenger might have wanted to use Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue
because of the African Nations Cup, but apparently he can't. There was
talk last week of Wenger trying to get their call-up postponed until after
the coming weekend, so that they'd be available for the visit of
Middlesbrough. At that time the word was that they were due to be leaving
tomorrow, and hence would be ok for tonight's match. But there have been
reports that the Ivory Coast got in touch just 90 minutes before Saturday's match
against Cardiff, saying that they couldn't play that one (invoking
FIFA's 14 day rule). It makes the performances of Djourou and Gilbert, both of whom would have
heard the news that they were starting the match with very little notice,
all the more impressive. Wenger has been very critical of the
Ivorians (not Kolo & Manu) and FIFA, saying it's a daft rule
that stops players from playing (they only had to attend a medical but
could easily have gone after the game). And he's expressed his worry that the pair will lose some Arsenal games after the African Nations Cup too. "When they come back, they will be dead", he says.
Gael Clichy and Ashley Cole (feet) are of course still unavailable,
and now Robin van Persie is out with a toe injury (but the official site's
news page says it won;t keep him out for long). Sol Campbell also
has a minor injury (which is always a worry, minor injuries all too often
turn into months on the sidelines for Sol).
Of these, Wenger has said that he would have used van Persie (as in
previous rounds) and probably Sol. One of Clichy or Cole probably would have
Thierry Henry will definitely be rested. Based on previous rounds, one
would expect at least one of the first-string strikers to start, so that'll
be Dennis Bergkamp and/or Jose Antonio Reyes. Other first-teamers in the squad
include Freddie Ljungberg, Alexander Hleb, Mathieu Flamini,
Cesc Fabregas, and Gilberto. Jens Lehmann, Lauren and
Robert Pires are rested.
So anyway, the line-up is anyone's guess. But one would have to expect
Manuel Almunia to follow up his good display on Saturday, along with
Djourou and Gilbert, and probably Saturday's subs Quincy and Sebastian Larsson. It'd be nice to see Gilberto in midfield to
provide strength and experience there, and because this cup is just about
the only thing in the game that he hasn't won yet! Wenger has hinted that
the Brazilian will indeed play, "It will be a battle so we have to play players like Gilberto".
("like Gilberto" means "Gilberto", in my reckoning).
Wigan have a few injuries problems: Ryan Taylor (broken metatarsal), Leighton Baines
(hamstring), David Wright (muscle) and Emerson Thome (fractured cheekbone), and
Alan Mahon and Steve McMillan are also doubts after picking up knocks in
the FA Cup tie against Leeds at the weekend.
Striker Henri Camara is off with Senegal for the Nations Cup. Boss
Paul Jewell has said that he's down to 15 fit players, and he's been trying
to register new signing Paul Scharner (an Austrian defender) in time to
play (news is that he's probably succeeded). They do have skipper
Arjan de Zeeuw returning from a broken nose.
(for them), Wigan are only expecting 11,000 to attend. Tickets were priced at
betwen £15 and £20, which is low but not quite at the low level Sunderland went
for in the 3rd round
(and which worked so well at getting the fans in).
The poor (predicted) attendance is likely to be due to the facts that
this is Wigan's 4th home tie out of 4 in the competition this season, and
their 5th home match in 3 weeks (well, if they will keep getting drawn at home
in the cups...). And it's on telly. Still, pretty disappointing given that those fans have never
seen their club reach a major final. Over 25,000 attended the Premiership
match between the sides on 19the November
(a 3-2 win for Arsenal)..