It may come as surprise to some that Arsenal, one of the greatest clubs in England, have only won the English League Cup twice. They claimed the trophy in 1987 and 1993, but otherwise have only progressed as far as runners-up in 1968, 1969, 1988, 2007, and 2011. This year they are into the quarter finals, and have a strong chance of going all the way and being the first team to pick up silverware this season.
Arsene Wenger is currently in the last year of his contract at the Emirates and, although it is widely expected that he will be offered a new deal after 2017, it would help his cause if he were to deliver some trophies in this campaign. The number one priority is of course the Premier League, and then the Champions League with the EFL Cup as more of an afterthought. But Arsenal do have the squad depth to be battling across all fronts.
The Gunners are up against Southampton in the quarter finals on Wednesday November 30 at the Emirates, in what is likely to be an absolute thriller between these Premier League sides. Get your tickets from TicketGum for as little as £64 and watch as the North London side battle to make it through to the semi-finals.
Elsewhere in the quarter finals Liverpool entertain Leeds United, West Ham travel to Old Trafford to take on Manchester United, and Hull play host to Championship high-flyers Newcastle. Liverpool have won the League Cup eight times, which is more than any other team, and they were runners-up last season when they lost Manchester City in the final. Jürgen Klopp will be hungry for his first trophy as Liverpool manager and is likely to field a strong squad against Leeds so as not to risk a huge upset.
Jose Mourinho has had a rocky start to his tenure as manager of the Red Devils, but a push for the cup could help to ease some of the pressure on the former Chelsea boss. And Rafa Benitez’s formidable Newcastle side have a good chance of seeing off struggling Hull who have an insufficient amount of players at their disposal.
Wenger has so far used the EFL Cup as an opportunity to give playing time to some squad players and others returning from injury. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been relishing the opportunity to impress, and scored twice (see above) in the round of 16 against Reading. The pacey winger has only managed to break into Arsenal’s first team intermittently, but more performances like that will make him hard to ignore. If he doesn’t get more action soon he may be tempted to leave the club, with Southampton believed to be interested bringing the 23-year-old back to St Mary’s Stadium.
Southampton are likely to field a heavily rotated side against Arsenal as they also look to balance their European and league ambitions. Wenger should aim to seize the opportunity to brush the Saints aside and may turn to Olivier Giroud to spearhead his attack.
When Arsenal and Southampton met in the league last, it was Arsenal who came away with the spoils thanks to a late penalty from Santi Cazorla. The Gunners are well-favoured to do the business again and push forward in their search for a third League Cup win.