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Capital One Cup roundup: Arsenal needs penalties, Swansea seen out by Championship club

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Nicklas Bendtner played. That’s all you need to know about how seriously Arsene Wenger took this game. Of course, when the lineups were handed in and the whistle blew, I’m sure he cared, but given the team the Arsenal boss picked for his club’s Capital One Cup match at The Hawthorns, he certainly seemed unwilling to risk much to come out victorious.

Thomas Eisfeld started behind Bendtner, ahead of Isaac Hayden and Mikel Arteta in midfield. Serge Gnabry and Ryo Miyachi started wide, and Lukas Fabianski got the call in goal. If it wasn’t for a back line of Carl Jenkinson, Per Mertesacker, Thomas Vermaelen and Nacho Monreal, Wednesday could have been a complete punt.

Instead, Arsenal actually scored first, with the 20-year-old Eisfeld opening his Arsenal account before Saido Berahino brought Steve Clarke’s team even in the 71st minute. But throughout the next 49 minutes — as West Brom pushed for the win while Wenger brought on Chuba Akpom, Kristoffer Olsson, and Héctor Bellerin — neither team could avoid penalty kicks, where Craig Dawson and Morgan Amalfitano misses put the Gunners through, 1-1 (3-4).

During yesterday’s wrap up, we talked about the eye-popping depth Manchester City and Tottenham have acquired, referencing what changed teams would look like for Manchester United, Liverpool, and Arsenal. While United made some changes and Liverpool experimented but picked their best, the Gunners swapped out their whole front-six. The result wasn’t a team with Stevan Jovetic and Sandro-esque talents. Beyond Mikel Arteta, a lot of young, raw, unproven players got the call.

[MORE: City, Spurs depth on display, Ball gets first win on Capital One Cup Tuesday.]

It wasn’t too long ago that such changes used to define the League Cup. Manchester United and Arsenal used to start their C-teams. But things have changed. Perhaps it happened when José Mourinho took the competition so seriously during his first run at Chelsea. Perhaps it’s a function of the huge depth vast resources offer the Premier League’s elite.

Regardless, the top teams are rarely going full Arsenal and playing all their kids. Even if Arsene Wenger did so today.

source: Getty Images
Last year, Michael Laudrup led Swansea City to League Cup glory in his first year in Wales. This year, Swans are out of the League Cup, losing 3-1 at Birmingham City on Wednesday. (Photo: Getty Images.)

SWANSEA LOSS PROBABLY A GOOD ONE

Any time a Premier League team loses to a lower-division squad, it’s noteworthy. When it’s the holders? Even more so. But Swansea have enough on their plate. Michael Laudrup has a squad that hopes to push on in the Premier League, while early indications are the Welsh side intend to take Europa League quite seriously. It they happen to fall out of the League Cup while doing so? So be it. Bigger fish, and all.

That’s what happened today in the West Midlands, with Swans dealt a 3-1 loss at Birmingham City. A decidedly changed Swansea side made it to halftime nil-nil, but goals from Dan Bunn, Matthew Green, and Tom Adeyemi gave the Blues a 3-0 lead by the 81st minute. Wilfred Bony’s stoppage time consolation proved irrelevant.

Given the team he chose, with only Jonjo Shelvey returning from the team that won at Crystal Palace on Saturday, Laudrup surely expected this could happen. Or maybe he thought a Birmingham team struggling near the bottom of the Championship could still be shown out. Instead, the League Cup holders have made an early exit from this year’s competition.

OTHER RESULTS

  • Newcastle United 2-0 Leeds United: Papiss Cisse and Yoann Gouffran goals on each side of halftime ease the Magpies through.
  • Tranmere Rovers 0-2 Stoke City: Stephen Ireland’s on the scoresheet for his new club, with Peter Crouch adding late insurance in the road win.
  • Manchester United 1-0 Liverpool: We covered that here.
  • All of Tuesday’s results

Report: Chelsea making first waves in $88m Bernardo chase

MONACO - NOVEMBER 22:  Bernardo Silva of Monaco  during the UEFA Champions League Group E match between AS Monaco FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC  at Louis II Stadium on November 22, 2016 in Monaco, .  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
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Monaco has slapped a massive price tag on Bernardo Silva, and The Times says that isn’t stopping Chelsea.

Antonio Conte is trying to land the 22-year-old Portuguese attacker according to the report, which says that the Blues are already chatting up the Ligue 1 outfit.

[ MORE: Wenger’s Sutton pitch worry ]

Silva has six goals and seven assists in France’s top flight this season, adding another three in the UEFA Champions League. He did not appear at EURO 2016 thanks to a hamstring injury, as Portugal won the Henri Delaunay Trophy.

Chelsea is ready to spend $88 million on the right winger, who can also play in a attacking center mid role. From The Times:

Monaco would like to secure a minimum of €80m (£68.4m) for Bernardo, who is comfortable operating on either the left or right wing or as a number 10. With Barcelona, Real Madrid and both Manchester clubs also expressing their interest Monaco, who play Manchester City in the Champions League on Tuesday, believe a money-spinning auction may develop.

Transfer prices can be hard to predict, but is Silva the sort of talent that will tempt nine figures? We’ve been surprised before, and at his age it’s possible, but color us skeptical.

AEK Athens beats Greek league leader Olympiakos 1-0

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ATHENS, Greece (AP) AEK Athens defeated Greek league leader Olympiakos 1-0 in an ill-tempered game on Sunday that saw 12 yellow cards and two dismissals.

[ MORE: Messi brace rescues Barca, Pescara earns second win of season ]

Astrit Ajdarevic scored the only goal in the 34th minute with a free kick that deflected off Olympiakos defender Manuel da Costa.

Olympiakos’ athletic director Francois Modesto was sent to the stands for protesting about the lead-up to AEK’s goal. His team’s central defender Alberto Botia was dismissed after a second yellow card in the 75th for pulling an advancing AEK forward’s jersey.

Despite the defeat, its second of the season, Olympiakos has a 10-point cushion over second-place Panionios, which beat 10-man Iraklis 1-0.

PAOK, a 4-0 winner over Veria, remains in third place, one point ahead of Panathinaikos, which beat Asteras 5-0 on Saturday. AEK is joint fifth with Xanthi.

PSG drops points against Toulouse days after massive UCL win

PARIS, FRANCE - FEBRUARY 14:  Julian Draxler of Paris Saint-Germain looks on during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between Paris Saint-Germain and FC Barcelona at Parc des Princes on February 14, 2017 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Just days after its massive (and somewhat unexpected) beatdown of Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain failed to close the gap on league leaders Monaco.

[ MORE: Messi brace rescues Barca, Pescara earns second win ]

PSG settled for a 0-0 draw on Sunday at the Parc des Princes against eighth-place Toulouse, leaving the Parisian side three points behind Monaco through 26 rounds of action.

[ MORE: Bielsa returns to Ligue 1 with Lille ]

Despite holding the visitors to just three shots (one on target), Toulouse managed to contain a rampant PSG attack, which posted four goals midweek in their rout of the Blaugrana.

PSG’s first strong chance came in the 14th minute when Lucas Moura’s effort was saved in the bottom corner by goalkeeper Alban Lafont.

Meanwhile, Edinson Cavani may have had the game’s best opportunity to break the deadlock when the Uruguayan attacker struck the post from inside the penalty area.

Unai Emery’s group will be back in action on Feb. 26 when PSG travels to Dimitri Payet and Marseille.

Wenger worried over Sutton’s pitch heading Monday’s clash

SUTTON, GREATER LONDON - FEBRUARY 16:  Pundits Paul Merson (4L) and Matt Le Tissier (2L) take part in a training session alongside Paul Doswell manager of Sutton United (L) and players during a Sutton United FA Cup media day on February 16, 2017 at the Borough Sports Ground in Sutton, Greater London. Sutton United are due to face Arsenal in the Emirates FA Cup Fifth round on 20 February.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
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The story of Monday’s encounter between Arsenal and fifth-division Sutton United will be whether the minnows can overcome the mighty Gunners.

[ MORE: Mourinho pleased with United’s “attitude” against Blackburn ]

However, Arsene Wenger already fears a bigger challenge within the game, one that concerns his players’ safety.

Sutton’s 5,000-seat Gander Green Lane features an artificial surface, which is largely uncommon for English and most European venues regardless of club standing.

“First of all the pitch. Secondly their enthusiasm. Thirdly that we are not ready mentally for a big fight and think subconsciously that it doesn’t matter,” Wenger said ahead of Monday’s FA Cup meeting in South London.

In preparation for their meeting with the U’s, Wenger had his side train on their own indoor artificial field on Friday.

“Look, ideally we would like to play on a normal pitch. Competition is as well to deal with what you face, and we’ll face an unusual pitch and we’ll have to deal with it,” he said.

“We practice inside [on Friday] because we have an artificial pitch. It’s not the same as it’s a dry pitch, and at Sutton I’ve heard that’s a wet pitch, they water it before the game. So it will be much quicker than what we have.”