By Richard Clarke
Wigan have an extra incentive to beat Arsenal in the Carling Cup Fourth Round tie at Emirates Stadium this evening.
Not only can the Latics advance to the Quarter-Final of the competition but eliminating Arsène Wenger’s side could allow Steve Bruce to bring in some of the Frenchman’s talented young team on loan in the New Year.
Of course there is no indication whether the Wigan manager will look to temporarily take an Arsenal player in the January window but history would suggest he’ll be more than interested.
While at Birmingham, Bruce brought in the likes of Nicklas Bendtner, Jermaine Pennant, Matthew Upson, Fabrice Muamba, Seb Larsson, Neil Kilkenny and Sam Oji from Arsenal either permanently or on-loan. At the start of this season he was reported to want Armand Traore at the JJB Stadium. That's why the former Man United defender might be scrutinising Arsenal as much as his own side this evening.
“We had good connections when he was at Birmingham,” said Wenger when asked about the issue ahead of the game. “Steve Bruce was always ready to take players from Arsenal because he knew what kind of players he would get and because they’d be ready to play for him.
“I don’t know [if he’ll ask for our players in January]. Maybe. Let’s first see how the players do against his team.
“Anyway Steve now has a bigger squad than he had at Birmingham. He has Antonio Valencia, Wilson Palacios, Amr Zaki plus all the players he had already like Emile Heskey and Paul Scharner. These are good players so that is maybe why he is less likely to be after our players than before.”
Whatever their immediate future and whatever the result at Emirates Stadium this evening, the game will again showcase the raw talent rising through the ranks at Arsenal. In the last round, they demolished Sheffield United 6-0 with Carlos Vela hitting a hat-trick and 16-year-old Jack Wilshere hitting the headlines with a masterful display.
However with 13 teenagers in the 18... er... man squad, the entire night was remarkable. Wenger has named virtually the same set of players this evening. However they will be without Nicklas Bendtner, perhaps the most senior player against Sheffield United. He is needed in the first-team right now due to injuries.
The major addition to Wenger’s 18 this time around is Amaury Bischoff. The 21-year-old was famously described as “a gamble” by his manager after arriving from Werder Bremen with a long-standing injury in the summer. The attacking midfielder has shaken it off sufficiently to start three Reserve games in recent months however he may begin on the bench this evening.
Whatever happens tonight or in subsequent rounds, Wenger will stick with his young squad throughout the campaign. While some argue Arsenal did not play enough experienced players in their Semi-Final second leg against Spurs last year, the Frenchman believes he played too many. Injuries collected in the 5-1 defeat that night had a knock-on effect in the Premier League and Champions League.
That said, Wenger remains intensely ambitious in this competition. But the squad will stay as it is.
“I would love to win the Carling Cup because I have never won it,” he said. “We were very close twice and I want to get even closer.
“This game is a big test. If we get through I feel we can have a good chance to win it and I am confident we can do it.
“There is always a congestion around the later rounds [in the New Year] that is why we have to announce now that we’ll stick with the young players.
“Otherwise there is a huge demand at a period where you play so many competitions.
“If you are not ready to separate [the competitions] you get punished so I will stick with this squad no matter what happens.”
Despite that, there is still every chance Arsenal can go all the way.Copyright 2016 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source