Crashing Out of the Capital One Cup: A Bittersweet Feeling
Last night, the final set of Capital One Cup third round encounters took place last night with Manchester City being the highest goalscorers of the round after thrashing Sheffield Wednesday resoundingly. Chelsea also booked a place in the fourth round after a narrow win over Bolton, Tottenham eased past Nottingham Forest and there were also wins for other Premier League outfits like Newcastle and West Brom.
The Fourth Round draws have been made and the fixtures are listed below,
Tottenham v Brighton
Stoke v Southampton
Bournemouth v West Brom
Shrewsbury v Chelsea
Liverpool v Swansea
MK Dons v Sheffield United
Man City v Newcastle
Fulham v Derby
If the Gunners had managed to record a victory against Southampton, they’d have geared themselves up for another tough encounter against a Premier League opponent. Arsenal’s record against Stoke in the Britannia Stadium is quite dismal but one can never know what could happen on the night. The last time the Gunners visited the Britannia Stadium in a cup tie was in the 2009/10 FA Cup and the Gunners crashed out of the tournament.
However, crashing out from the competition at the first hurdle feels kinda bittersweet for more reasons than one. This competition would have offered some specific players the chance to experience first-team football because their chances could be few and far between as the campaign progresses.
David Ospina is a keeper that has arrived with some pedigree but as it stands it would probably take an injury or suspension to Wojciech Szczesny before he gets featured in the Premier League and Champions League.
Using the departed Lukasz Fabianski as a case study, the Pole’s first appearance of the 2013/14 season came in the Capital One Cup third round clash with West Brom and he featured again in the fourth round tie against Chelsea. Arsenal lost to Chelsea in October and Fabianski had to wait till the turn of the New Year before he featured in the FA Cup run of games that saw him attain cult hero status. He managed to have just one Premier League appearance, on the final day of the season against Norwich.
I’m not saying that Ospina won’t play any Premier League or Champions League game as I’m certainly not Arsene Wenger but using Fabianski’s situation last season as a go-by, I fear the same fate for the Colombian shot stopper.
Moving further up the pitch, the game against Southampton featured a defensive line of three 19-year-old and one auxiliary fullback that’s actually a holding midfielder by trade. Hector Bellerin, Calum Chambers, Isaac Hayden and Francis Coquelin put up impressive shifts on the night and made good accounts of themselves.
While Chambers would be fortunate enough to continue featuring in the first team because he’s Mathieu Debuchy’s replacement, a young lad like Isaac Hayden may never get a chance to play again this season, unless the Gunners are down to their bare minimums. If for any reason, Per Mertesacker or Laurent Koscielny suffers a lengthy layoff or suspension, Chambers would move to the middle while Bellerin would play down the right, which ultimately means that Hayden would be on the bench waiting for another avenue to pave a way for him.
In midfield, I still expect Jack Wilshere and the surprisingly ineffectual player on the night, Tomas Rosicky, to get their chances but I believe that Arsene Wenger would take a very cautious approach on the fragile Abou Diaby. The personnel in attack with the obvious exception of Alexis Sanchez, didn’t even offer any threat going forward. Lukas Podolski and Joel Campbell were tasked with supporting Alexis from the wings but they failed miserably. While Campbell had no real attacking verve going forward, Podolski was a largely anonymous and their collective performances showed why Arsene Wenger hasn’t featured the two players consistently in his Premier League campaign thus far.
Crashing out of the competition also means that Arsenal’s chances of winning silverware has been reduced by one cup as the Capital One Cup was certainly a winnable competition in my honest opinion.
However, playing no more Capital One Cup fixture would be kind to congested Arsenal’s fixture list because if the Gunners had managed to beat Southampton, they’d have played Stoke in late October (in between the Sunderland (away) and Burnley (home). If the Gunners had progressed to the quarterfinals, the match in December would have been sandwiched between Newcastle (home) and Liverpool (away). The semifinal legs would have added to Arsenal’s woes in January as the Gunners also have six other games to play in that month. The final in Wembley would have between the Everton (home) and Q.P.R. (away) games.
Crashing out of the Capital One Cup was definitely a huge disappointment but in hindsight, it can turn out to be a blessing.
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