COMMENT By Tony Hughes
Arsene Wenger should field a mixture of youth and experience to secure Arsenal a safe passage into the fourth round of the EFL Cup.
The Gunners manager has a habit of blooding academy graduates in the early stages of the domestic cup competitions.
That is likely to be once again the case for Tuesday night’s EFL Cup clash at Nottingham Forest although Wenger should resist the temptation to fast-track too many youngsters.
With the notable exception of Alex Iwobi, Arsenal’s emerging stars came unstuck in the same competition against Sheffield Wednesday last season.
That is likely to ensure the Premier League giants avoid complacency on Tuesday even though they are likely to make 11 changes to the starting XI that thrashed Hull on Saturday, with the big guns like Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Santi Cazorla, Petr Cech and Laurent Koscielny given a breather.
This will provide opportunities for youngsters such as Chuba Akpom, Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Chris Willock and Krystian Bielik to be promoted to the first-team squad.
Of the youthful quartet, Akpom should spearhead the attack against Forest, with Lucas Perez taking on the right-sided forward role likely to be vacated by Theo Walcott.
On the other side on the front line, the exciting Reine-Adelaide should be given the chance to make his third senior start.
There should also be a starting place for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mathieu Debuchy, Kieran Gibbs, Rob Holding and central midfield duo Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny, who have been late substitutes in each of the last two matches after being overlooked in favour of Cazorla and Francis Coquelin.
In goal, Cech is set to be rested in favour of his deputy David Ospina, who responded to a surprise call-up against Paris Saint-Germain last week with an outstanding display that ensured his team returned to England with a valuable point.
Wenger should use the EFL Cup as the chance to hand a rest to full-back duo Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal, who have each started all six of the team’s Premier League and Champions League matches.
The experience of Gibbs and Debuchy would compensate at the back for the youthfulness of duo Holding and Bielik, who is able to play in defence as well as central midfield.
Giroud did not travel to Hull on Saturday due to a toe injury and the Frenchman will once again miss out due to injury.
In other Arsenal team news, Wenger is ready to let this young star out on loan to get more first-team football.