Gabriel Martinelli and Sambi Lokinga to start, Predicted Arsenal XI vs AFC Wimbledon
Arsenal returns to the League Cup for the third round, the final round in which new teams are admitted to the competition, after a couple of wins in the Premier League.
The Gunners have already qualified for the League Cup, defeating West Bromwich Albion 6-0. They now go to the Emirates Stadium to face AFC Wimbledon ahead of the North London derby this Saturday.
Given the importance of the game a few days later, we expect Mikel Arteta to be heavily rotated. Here’s how we think Arsenal will line up against AFC Wimbledon.
Aaron Ramsdale has to be the favourite to start against Tottenham Hotspur, given his recent form. Bernd Leno, on the other hand, should get a shot in this game, and he’ll want to take advantage of it if he wants to reclaim his starting job.
Arsenal has plenty of defensive alternatives to allow for a full rotation. At left-back, Nuno Tavares should start, with Pablo Mari and Rob Holding coming in at centre-back.
Both Calum Chambers and Cedric Soares are available to replace Takehiro Tomiyasu at right-back, although Cedric made the squad at the weekend and is likely to start.
The first-choice back-four of Kierney, Gabriel Magalhaes, Ben White, and Tomiyasu will be able to rest ahead of the Spurs match.
Given that Thomas Partey and Emile Smith Rowe were both taken off early against Burnley, Albert Sambi Lokonga and Ainsley Maitland-Niles appear to be the most likely replacements.
There aren’t many options at number 10, so Arteta might have to call on Martin Odegaard again after his game-winning goal at the weekend.
It would be wonderful to see an academy player earn a call-up, and Kido Taylor-Hart, Omari Hutchinson, Salah Eddine Oulad M’Hand, or Ben Cottrell are all capable of filling in.
The problem is that none of them had lately been in a first-team game, so starting one of them would be a bit of a surprise.
With Alexandre Lacazette, Eddie Nketiah, and Folarin Balogun all fit and ready to play behind Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Arteta has a lot of strikers to choose from.
With Lacazette upfront, the Arsenal manager can get at least two of those three into the team by pushing one of the wide, most likely Nketiah or Balogun. Nketiah will almost certainly make the team due to his seniority.
Gabriel Martinelli, the most natural fit out wide among the surviving players, should get a shot on the other wing.
Another option is for Arteta to relegate Lacazette to the 10th position and start Balogun upfront. However, a front four consisting of Lacazette, Balogun, Martinelli, and Nketiah is unbalanced, therefore it’s a hazardous move.
Finally, switching to a back three with Tavares and Cedric as wing-backs and a third centre-back (either Kolasinac or Chambers) might be a possibility. Both Odegaard and Smith Rowe would be able to rest as a result, although it would be a bit of a negative.