If there was any doubt that Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger doesn’t care for the Capital One Cup, then his team selections for the win over West Bromwich Albion answered that.
After eight years without silverware, the club and the manager are desperate for a trophy. Despite that, however, it is clear Wenger doesn’t really rate England’s League Cup highly in his priorities at all. He has picked a squad which reflect that.
From the goal keeper to the bench, the majority of players were at best second choice in comparison to the first team, and although the Arsenal squad is very small, Wenger would have risked playing the more senior players if he really desired Capital One Cup success enough, despite fatigue clearly being a concern.
This is not an attack at the quality of the younger Arsenal players, as I’m sure they too would admit that they are not of the same standards as those left out. Wenger would rather give his younger, developing players the chance to prove themselves at this competitive level than giving yet more minutes to those who he believes are most important.
We’ve seen this before from Arsenal even against the likes of Tottenham in years past, as they’ve put out young, weaker but hungry teams.
It’s a stance that is a positive one. I don’t think anyone really takes the Capital One Cup that seriously, but Wenger sees it as a real chance to see his young players’ hopes. It’s nice to see, even if it does degrade a proper competition. Debuts are given to boys in lesser competitions like this, taking away the burden of stepping into the ring in a League game, or worse — failing to gather any game time at all.
The inclusion of Per Mertesacker did show, however, that Wenger respects his own club’s results. He doesn’t ever want to disgrace the name, which was also shown by giving Mikel Arteta his return on this occasion.
But an important point to make though is that the young Gunners clearly have a huge desire to make the most of their opportunities. You could see that when the likes of Chuba Akpom were ecstatic with finding the net in penalties. Wenger would love to see his young players succeed at this level, but it is clear that he is not concerned about the trophy itself.
Of all the managers competing in the Capital One Cup, Wenger is the firmest in his honesty to put it aside from the other major competitions. Some may see it as foolish, but I see it as beneficial to the long-term future of the club and to the fast-approaching Premier League games coming this weekend — which for Arsenal is Swansea City away in this case.
Whilst the Welsh club will have grown tired during the week, Wenger’s side will be fresh and that may well pay off.