Arsenal v West Brom, Carling Cup, September 21, 2009
For years now Arsene Wenger has used the Carling Cup as his breeding ground for Arsenal’s next generation of talent, and the same is expected against the Baggies as a team of upstarts and fringe players are set to turn out for the Gunners.
The Professor has indicated 19-year-old Poland keeper Wojciech Szczesny is set to make his first-team debut, given that Vito Mannone had been playing for the first team with Almunia and Fabianski both sidelined.
Across the back, centre-half Philippe Senderos will get a rare start having missed out on his chance to leave the Emirates during the transfer window, while veteran Mikael Silvestre, who has made just one appearance so far this season, is also set to feature. (Arsenal are 8/13 to keep a clean sheet.)
The hugely exciting talent of Kieran Gibbs (12/1 to score) will line up at left-back, with the Englishman looking like the latest star of tomorrow in the position which has given us Ashely Cole and Gael Clichy in the last five years.
Further forward, Wenger is likely to afford his brilliant babes a chance to express themselves with Jack Wilshere (6/1 to score first), Aaron Ramsey (7/2 to score) set to roam the middle of the park alongside 18-year-old Sanchez Watt. Wenger may also include returning Czech international Tomas Rosicky (11/4 to score) as the midfielder continues his comeback from an injury lay-off of over 18 months.
Up-top Wenger has suggested that Mexican striker Carlos Vela will make his first appearance of the season, while French forward Gilles Sunu and striker Rhys Murphy (5/4 to score) – mainstays in the Arsenal youth team – could also make appearances.
West Brom, though, will be far from pushovers having claimed top spot in the Championship last weekend after recording a hugely impressive 5-nil win at the Riverside last time out. The Baggies could not be in better form ahead of their trip to north London, but its not all good news for manager Roberto Di Matteo.
The Italian has a problem at left-back, Joe Mattock will be out with an ankle injury while the left-sided Marek Cech also remains sidelined with an ankle problem of his own. Influential midfielder Chris Brunt (knee) has also been ruled out while long-term absentees James Morrison (heel), Neil Clement and Ishmael Miller (both knee) are still missing.
On the plus side, new Chilean international defender Gonzalo Jara could finally make his long-awaited West Brom debut. Jara has been unable to feature for his new employers as he awaited a work visa to enter the country but he was finally granted clearance towards the end of last week.
After also managing to hold onto the nucleus of their squad following relegation last term, the Baggies also have a huge host of established stars to call upon.
Already leading the goalscoring charts with 20 goals so far this campaign, 12 different West Brom players have already broken their ducks with Roman Bednar (8/1 to score first) having notched three goals in four games, Luke Moore (10/3 to score), Youssouf Mulumbu, and Swede Jonas Olsson (80/1 to score a brace) one behind with two goals to their names, while Robert Koren (7/1 to score) and Jerome Thomas have also got off the mark.
That said, with just one win against Arsenal in their last fourteen matches – a period stretching back to 1983 – the BaggiesÂ could struggleÂ against Wenger’s latest batch of babes.
101predicts: Arsenal 2 – West Brom 1 (7/1)
Full match odds here.