Arsenal is expected to be without both Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez for Wednesday’s EFL Cup quarterfinal at home to Southampton, but could have fellow forward Lucas Perez back in the lineup.
Sanchez has flourished as the man leading the attack for Arsenal this season, scoring twice in the team’s 3-1 win over Bournemouth on Saturday to take his season tally into double figures. However, it seems probable that the Chilean will be given a night off after a grueling recent schedule and an injury scare while on international duty earlier this month.
Giroud has also made an impressive impact when coming off the bench in recent weeks but will miss out at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday with a groin injury. That could mean that summer signing Perez goes straight back into the starting lineup.
The arrival from Deportivo La Coruna hasn’t played since sustaining an ankle injury in Arsenal’s 2-0 victory over Reading in the previous round of the League Cup five weeks ago. It was also in the same competition that Perez netted his only goals thus far in an Arsenal shirt, firing a brace in a 4-0 triumph over Nottingham Forest.
Manager Arsene Wenger has confirmed that the 28-year-old will be available against Southampton as part of a squad that will feature some rotation.
“Lucas is in the squad and we will have a mixture of youth and experience, but still 90 percent of the first-team squad,” Wenger told Arsenal.com on Tuesday.
One player who is expecting to get a rare run-out is third-choice goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez. The Argentine has started both of Arsenal’s previous games in the EFL Cup this season and is already dreaming of running out at Wembley Stadium in February’s final.
“The boss told me that I would play in the League Cup at the beginning of the season and I trust him," Martinez told Arsenal’s website. "I’m playing every game so I’m really looking forward to Southampton.
"Now we’re in the quarterfinals and it’s a big game for us at the Emirates. We want to go to Wembley, we want to go all the way. I dreamt of [winning] it the first day. When we played Forest away I thought, ‘If we beat Forest then we’re one step closer to Wembley’.
"We’ve only got three more games now so I’m really looking forward to playing Southampton at home."
Arsenal must overcome recent history in the competition if the club is to progress. The north London outfit has not reached the semifinals in six seasons and two seasons ago it was Southampton that ended its run with a 2-1 victory at the Emirates.
Southampton, though, has not reached the semifinals of a major cup competition since it was a beaten by Arsenal in the 2003 FA Cup final.
The south-coast club has made a solid start to life under new manager Claude Puel, with a 1-0 win over Everton on Sunday leaving it 10th in the Premier League table. That win was achieved with the help of a starring debut from the latest product to emerge from Southampton’s famed youth academy, Josh Sims. But Puel has called for patience with the 19-year-old who set up Austin’s first-minute winner on Sunday.
"We will see [if he plays on Wednesday]," Puel said. "I think for Josh it's important now he stays quiet and can recover, not just physically but also mentally. It's important he stays with a good spirit and good attitude. His work has just begun, it is not finished and it is important to keep him with a good attitude for the future."
Puel also indicated he is likely to make changes to his lineup, with both Sofiane Boufal and Steven Davis in contention to make a return after missing out at the weekend.
Prediction: With Arsenal rotating its side and Southampton proving a tough team to break down in recent weeks, this promises to be a closely contested cup encounter. Extra time is a possibility but ultimately Arsenal may just have the greater quality in the final third to claim victory.
Predicted Score: Arsenal 1-0 Southampton
Kickoff Time: 2:45 p.m. EST
TV Channel: beIN Sports (delayed coverage at 5 p.m. EST)
Live Stream: beIN Sports Connect