Carling Cup Preview: Predicting the Arsenal Starting XI vs. Manchester City
The Gunners' are the current runners' up of the entertaining Cup after last season's tragedy, and many believe this competition provides the best opportunity for Arsene Wenger's men to secure silverware and eradicate their lingering trophy drought after six successive seasons.
However, one could not ask for a tougher opponent in England than Manchester City, whose multibillion-dollar investment from Sheikh Mansour is beginning to work wonders. The Sky Blues thrive in the Premier League, atop the table with 11 wins, two draws and of course no registered losses.
However, though they produce phenomenal results in England on the weekend, mid-week matches appear to be a slight concern. Roberto Mancini's men have struggled to replicate their form in the UEFA Champions League, currently boasting just two wins from five games.
The Gunners are in a rich vein of form despite a stalemate with Fulham on the weekend and currently boast 11 wins in their last 14 overall matches. Wenger has predominantly utilized a youthful approach in the Carling Cup, granting opportunities to teenagers and reserves. However, since last season the Frenchman has adopted a more first-team approach.
However, in dispatching League Two outfit Shrewsbury Town and Bolton Wanderers, Wenger has shown fans a range of youngsters and fringe players. But with opponents of calibre and depth of the Sky Blues, Wenger is set produce a strong starting XI. As always, BleacherReport will predict the starting XI.
As always with domestic competitions, Wenger will utilize his deputy keeper, ensuring Polish international Lukasz Fabianski receives a rare opportunity whilst countryman Wojciech Szczesny, who has been in immense form since 2011/2012 commenced, will enjoy a rest.
Fabianski enjoyed superb form as the Arsenal No. 1 during the first half of last season before a season-ending shoulder injury, which Szczesny took full advantage of. However the 26-year-old is valued highly by Wenger. Italian youngster Vito Mannone is set to receive the substitute role ahead of veteran Manuel Almunia—the duo are both awaiting January departures.
Wenger is set to utilize the strength and guidance of defensive leader Thomas Vermaelen in a bid to defeat City, whilst Frenchman Laurent Koscielny, who was rested against Fulham, is also set to start, providing an experienced, quality centre-half partnership.
Spanish teenager Ignasi Miquel and veteran Sebastien Squillaci, the routine Carling Cup centre-backs, are set to receive opportunities when the Gunners encounter Greek champions Olympiacos in the UEFA Champions League, where Arsenal have already secured qualification to the last 16.
At right-back, the injury dilemma continues. First choice Bacary Sagna and deputy Carl Jenkinson both continue to nurse wounds. Sagna is expected to return in the new year, whilst Jenkinson is set to return by mid December. This ensures teenager Nicholas Yennaris could receive his second Arsenal appearance. However, Wenger may opt to shift Koscielny to the right and promote Miquel.
England international Kieran Gibbs is still a month away from returning from a hernia, which ensures Brazilian Andre Santos is favourite to start. However, Wenger also has the option of shifting Vermaelen to left-back and promoting Miquel once again.
Defensive giants Per Mertesacker and Johan Djourou are both expected to be rested for the mid-week clash, whilst teenager Daniel Boateng, who recently signed a long-term contract, is set for a place on the bench.
Wenger has impressive youth depth in his midfield, which is expected to feature. French youngster Francis Coquelin and Ghanain teenager Emmanuel Frimpong are battling for the defensive midfield role as Alexandre Song receives a well-earned break. Frimpong is the most likely candidate.
Czech playmaker Tomas Rosicky and Israeli captain Yossi Benayoun are set to orchestrate the attack as the attacking midfield. The duo instill experience and leadership into the lineup. Dutch teenager Oguzhan Ozyakup is set to join Coquelin on the substitutes list, whilst Spaniard Mikel Arteta could also feature with a chance of also starting ahead of Rosicky.
Jack Wilshere, Abou Diaby and Aaron Ramsey are all carrying injuries or concerns.
Wenger's array of attacking talent is set to be showcased. However, the Frenchman is tentative to use star striker and captain Robin van Persie, who has 38 goals in 42 appearances for the Gunners' in 2011. The Dutchman is likely to appear on the bench.
Ivorian forward Gervinho is set to feature on the left, with highly rated teenager Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who fans are eager to see perform, beginning on the right. South Korean captain Chu Young-Park and imposing Moroccan Marouane Chamakh are vying for the starting striker role.
Who Will Conquer?
Russian dynamo Andrei Arshavin is a chance to feature from the bench after a poor showing against Fulham. Theo Walcott has an injury worry and will not be considered. Highly touted English youngster Sanchez Watt is likely to miss out. Japanese teenager Ryo Miyaichi has an ankle complaint.
With seven places on Wenger's bench, Mannone is the favourite for the emergency keeper role, whilst Boateng is the emergency defender.
Coquelin is the versatile midfield and defensive option, whilst Ozyakup is the attacking midfield from the bench. Van Persie, Arshavin and Chamakh are the impact forwards.
There is no better atmosphere than a Carling Cup match, and this one is sure to be a stunner. Can Arsenal overcome the might and money of Manchester City?
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