More senior players likely to be involved
25 September ~ As an Arsenal fan, I have an uneasy relationship with the League Cup. On the plus side, it provides the earliest opportunity to end the taunts about how long it's been since we've won a trophy. Young players gain experience and we've seen some exciting matches, not least last season's 7-5 victory against Reading. And yet we've only ever won this thing twice, while losing five finals. I'm too young to bear the scars of that infamous defeat to Swindon but I remember losing to Luton Town in 1988 and I still feel the pain of that late goal in the 2011 final.
I am, of course, still haunted by our exit at Bradford City last season. Despite Arsenal's reputation for fielding fringe players in the League Cup, the team that crashed out against the then-League Two side wasn't far off full-strength. While there are still opportunities for academy players, it seems the competition is taken more seriously these days. Arsène Wenger will certainly rotate the team, but to what extent? There's an obvious need to rest players but we're on a good run. It's important to maintain that momentum.
After the summer clear out in which 22 players were sold or released (and six more sent out on loan), it's less obvious who will actually play in this season's competition. Perhaps it'll become the convalescents' cup: a chance for players returning from injury to run around and regain a bit of match fitness. Mikel Arteta should feature at some point tonight and, given our lengthy injury list, we ought to have several big names available for the later rounds if we get there.
On-loan goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano is likely to make his debut this evening, while the youngsters that could be involved include Chuba Akpom, Ryo Miyaichi, Serge Gnabry and Isaac Hayden. Oh, and Nicklas Bendtner. (I find it helps if I close my eyes and just keep telling myself he scored a couple of goals at Euro 2012 and played for Juventus last year.)
Following their first Premier League win on Saturday, West Brom will be looking for another good result ahead of their visit to Old Trafford. I don't expect an easy game but Arsenal do have a decent record against the Baggies. After last season's bewildering results, I'm hoping this will be the first in a series of calm, efficient 1-0 wins, ideally leading to a stylish five-goal hammering of whoever we get in the final. Ronan Strand