COMMENT By Tony Hughes
Arsene Wenger 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 the Arsenal manager is set to resist the temptation to fast-track too many youngsters.
Wenger is expected to select a mixture of youth and experience at the City Ground after Arsenal came unstuck against Sheffield Wednesday last season when their emerging stars proved to be not up to the task.
Nevertheless, the Gunners 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 being 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.
They will vie with more experienced players for a starting place, including Lucas Perez, 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 will most likely 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.
Gibbs and Debuchy are in line to start and could flank rookie duo Holding and Bielik, who is able to play in defence as well as central midfield.
Ahead of them Xhaka and Elneny could both start, with Perez and Oxlade-Chamberlain handed more attacking roles alongside the highly promising 18-year-old Reine-Adelaide.
Giroud did not travel to Hull on Saturday due to a toe injury and the Frenchman will once again miss out due to injury.
That could mean Perez playing out wide, with Akpom spearheading the attack.
In other Arsenal team news, Wenger is ready to let this young star out on loan to get more first-team football.