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.
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.
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.
- 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