There will be some inexperienced faces on show at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday, with Arsène Wenger set to rotate his injury-depleted squad for the visit of Southampton in the third round of the Capital One Cup. Arsenal enter the game on the back of a morale-boosting 3-0 victory over Aston Villa at the weekend to get over a tough defeat in the Champions League to Borussia Dortmund and run of draws in the Premier League.
But, as has become tradition for Arsenal in the League Cup, Wenger is set to ring the changes on Tuesday ahead of Saturday’s north London derby with Tottenham. Injuries mean his defense, in particular, will have a rather unfamiliar look. On Monday it was confirmed that Mathieu Debuchy will miss three months of action after undergoing surgery on his left ankle injured against Manchester City. Nacho Monreal also remains out with a back problem, meaning that the four defenders who started at Villa Park are Arsenal’s only fit and established defenders. Center-back Isaac Hayden is likely to make his debut, while Hector Bellerin, 19, could be in store for his second start, just a week after his first. There may also be a first Arsenal appearance in almost 18 months for midfielder Francis Coquelin, perhaps even in a makeshift defensive role.
“On Tuesday night you might see Hector Bellerin, Francis Coquelin and Isaac Hayden,” Wenger said, according to Arsenal’s official website. “In the squad we have Chuba Akpom and Semi Ajayi as well. These are the players that are the closest.
“Hayden’s a ball winner, he's a good central defender and a good central midfielder. Technically, he was working on his game a bit, but now he is ready for that level.”
The situation is more preferable elsewhere in the team, where Wenger should take the chance to hand a start to a number of players in need of game time. Summer arrival David Ospina may make his debut in goal, while Abou Diaby could lineup in midfield. Tomas Rosicky and Lukas Podolski will be looking to make their first starts of the season.
In contrast, Southampton are likely to field a close to full-strength team, as they did when beating Millwall in the previous round. After losing a host of players this summer, including Calum Chambers to Arsenal, many expected Southampton to struggle under new coach Ronald Koeman. But they have begun the season by taking 10 points from five matches to lie second in the table, and sit a point and two places ahead of their opponents on Tuesday. Southampton come into the game on a run of four straight wins in all competitions.
Koeman will be missing James Ward-Prowse and Maya Yoshida for the visit to the Emirates after both suffered an injury in the 1-0 victory at Swansea City on Saturday. Meanwhile, coming into the squad for the first time will be Sadio Mané. The Senegal international forward joined from Red Bull Salzburg on transfer deadline-day, but has only just received a work permit. Koeman, though, stressed that his focus was on progressing in the competition.
“We’ve prepared ourselves, even though we don’t know what Arsenal’s starting line-up will be,” he said, reports Southampton’s official website. “We have to be concentrated and focused game-by-game because the next game is the most important. We’ve had a good start to the season, and now we have to work hard to continue that. We’d like to go on in the League Cup, and for that reason we will take it very seriously.”
Prediction: Arsenal’s strength in depth going forward means that Wenger can rotate and still expect his team to pose Southampton’s defense problems. There is far less quality and experience in reserve at the back and a Southampton team that could include in-form duo Dusan Tadic and Graziano Pellè could have an enjoyable night. It may just be home advantage that helps see Arsenal through, but possibly only after extra time or even penalties.
Arsenal 2-1 Southampton
Kickoff time: 2:45 p.m. ET
Live stream: BeIN Sports Connect