Arsenal travel to Reading for a League Cup 4th round tie tomorrow night. The Gunners are expected to field a weakened team, with Arsene Wenger admitting last week at the AGM meeting that the competition is his lowest priority this year.
Damian Martinez is expected to start the game tomorrow, having started in the last round against Coventry. Theo Walcott, Andrei Arshavin and Johan Djourou are expected to feature having been substitutes for most first-team outings so far this year. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gervinho are injured, whilst Wenger confirmed Jack Wilshere won’t feature after Saturday’s win against QPR.
Whatever Wenger says about the League Cup, winning the competition would relieve a lot of the pressure that is currently on him to deliver trophies for the club. As has been mentioned about a million times in recent years, Arsenal haven’t lifted a trophy since beating Manchester United in the 2005 FA Cup Final on penalties. You look at Manchester United when they were in a slump around that period, they decided to take the League Cup more seriously in 2005/06, going on to lift it that year. They then won a couple more of them in the coming years, but trophies began to come in again for United. Winning any cup gives a side confidence and if they had won this tournament in 2011, Arsenal may well have gone on to win more that season, as they fell apart after that loss in the Final.
Brian McDermott is relishing the contest with his former club and stated his excitement from the moment that the game was drawn out the hat. He stated his respect for Arsenal as a club, but as you would expect, he said he is only thinking about a win for his team tomorrow night. You could argue that Reading may prioritise Sunday’s game against QPR ahead of this one, but I’m sure that whatever side McDermott fields will be capable of winning the game and play with a lot of desire.
Reading have no fresh injury concerns from their thrilling 3-3 draw against Fulham at the weekend, but Jem Karacan remains sidelined with a knee injury. Danny Guthrie was dropped for Saturday’s game, so McDermott will have to decide whether or not he will play against Arsenal.
Arsenal and Reading have met twice in the League Cup. The most recent encounter was back in 2005/06 when Arsenal won 3-0 thanks to goals from Jose Antonio Reyes, Robin Van Persie and Arturo Lupoli in a 4th round tie at Highbury. The other game was a 3rd round tie in 1967/68 which the Gunners won 1-0.