27th October 2015: Capital One Cup Preview – Test of squad depth at Hillsborough

Evening all. It’s match-day again as we travel to Sheffield Wednesday in the fourth round of the Capital One Cup this evening looking to win our fifth straight game in all competitions.

The League Cup is of course the only domestic trophy Arsene Wenger is yet to win, despite having reached the final on two occasions in 2007 and 2011, and the boss is not taking tonight’s opponents lightly despite them playing a league lower in the Championship. He said:

They are a team who have just won at Rotherham. I watched the game and they have good, tall strikers. They have Barry Bannan who has played in the Premier League and they look to have a very compact team who are at a very good technical level. They have a strong team spirit so they will certainly work to create difficulties for us and I’m sure they have the quality to do that. We have to respond with a top-level performance.

I have to admit I know next to nothing about The Owls’ current team but the fact they sit ninth in the second tier of the English game suggests they will be tough opponents, particularly on home turf.

Arsene mentioned Barry Bannan above and looking through their squad list, he’s the only player I can recall watching. He’s a diminutive, left-footed passer primarily, but past his Premier League-level best and should prove no match for Zinedine Flamini in the middle of the park.

Tonight’s encounter will be the 126th meeting between the sides with Arsenal having won 55 and drawn 35. Those old enough will remember us beating Wednesday in both domestic cup finals at the end of the 1992-93 season when the sides were far more evenly matched than today, and we’ve won all five of our League Cup meetings to date.

The Owls’ current manager, the Portuguese Carlos Carvalhal, who’s coached the likes of Sporting Lisbon and Besiktas in his career, gives his side just a 1 in 10 chance of causing an upset this evening. Speaking to BBC Radio Sheffield, he said:

We will fight for the whole match and we will be competitive. It will be interesting to see how it goes. We have probably a 10% chance of getting through. It is not very much but it is better than zero. Zero means you can do nothing, 10% means we will have 10% of the chances and we have to grab them.

Carvalhal also praised The Gunners, calling us one of the best teams in the world and highlighting our superb, recent run of form, saying:

It will be a fantastic day and it will make people remember the past and we hope games like this can be normal for us in the future. We are playing one of the best teams in the world. I think they have scored 18 goals in their last six games and that includes games against Manchester United and Bayern Munich.

Having discussed how we might line-up tonight in yesterday’s post, I won’t go over it again but it’s clear Arsene will be making wholesale changes to the team that started Saturday’s win over Everton with Joel Campbell almost certain to be handed a rare start.

Th Costa Rican hasn’t been afforded much game time with the Gunners but when he has played, hasn’t looked out of his depth at all in my opinion. On the other hand he hasn’t forced the manager to pick him more regularly by coming up with a goal or even an assist but given his lack of minutes, that’s hardly surprising.

Arsene clearly rates the player though, and has been discussing Campbell’s strengths as well as praising his professionalism, saying:

I like Joel Campbell very much for two reasons. One is that he has outstanding individual quality, but he is also a team player. He works very hard for the team. I’m convinced he will get a chance here and that he will take it. He has another opportunity against Sheffield Wednesday and I’m hopeful that he will show that he has the quality to play for Arsenal. When you get the chance, you have to be ready. To be ready, you have to prepare. I must say that Joel Campbell and Calum Chambers are two players who do absolutely everything right. They are prepared, the preparation they have created will give them the confidence against Sheffield Wednesday and I’m confident they will play well.

With Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain struggling for form and Aaron Ramsey out injured, Campbell could conceivably force his way into our first-choice starting 11 in the coming weeks.

But to do so, he’ll have to start making decisive, or at least eye-catching, contributions whenever he’s given a chance to play. Tonight would clearly be a great time for him to do just that.

Back tomorrow.

COYG!

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