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19 Dec 2017

#AFCvWHU: Arsenal Reached The Carabao Cup Semi-final: Arsenal vs WestHam United Welbeck 'See Through'


The League Cup remains the one glaring void on Arsene Wenger’s domestic CV but, in reaching an eighth semi-final, there is a growing sense that this Arsenal squad have never been better equipped to meet that challenge.

Rather like Manchester United last season, Arsenal have increasingly taken the character over recent months of a Cup team.

A squad of quite extraordinary numbers is backed up by players in Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil who seem more attuned now to big one-off occasions rather than the week-to-week grind of the Premier League.

It was evident last season in the FA Cup and, in having a reserve team that has reached the latter stages of the Europa League and now the League Cup, Arsenal’s season suddenly seems less dependent on the league

 A scrappy 42nd minute goal here by Danny Welbeck was sufficient to get past a West Ham United team who were certainly stubborn but lacking any sort of coherent attacking threat.

However, the evening was not without blemish: one big concern for Arsenal was the loss after 78 minutes of Olivier Giroud to a hamstring injury.

Wenger has previously treated the League Cup as something of an irrelevance but the increasing chance to join only seven men - Alex Ferguson, Kenny Dalglish, Jose Mourinho, George Graham, Bill Nicholson, Don Revie and Joe Mercer - in having won all three domestic trophies will surely appeal.

The League Cup might offer Arsenal’s best theoretical chance of a trophy but the priorities for Wenger were again clear in his decision to rest the entire starting team that beat Newcastle United on Saturday from his matchday squad.

Arsenal face Liverpool in the Premier League on Friday to begin a festive schedule that, relatively speaking, is less arduous than normal in its concentration of matches.

The depth of Arsenal’s squad quality these days, however, is such that Wenger does have the luxury of making such comprehensive rotations whilst still being able to field a team packed with international quality.
A front three of Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck would grace plenty of Premier League teams and behind them were also plenty of past regulars.

Wenger had continued with the switch back to the 4-2-3-1 system that he played in drawing 0-0 with West Ham in the Premier League last Wednesday and this match soon settled into a very similar pattern.

Arsenal had struggled badly at the London Stadium to turn around two thirds of possession into clear chances against a West Ham 3-5-2 formation that was largely designed to stifle the central areas. The same challenges were evident, with Mohamed Elneny, Francis Coquelin and Joe Willock soon seeing plenty of the ball in central midfield but constantly running into dead ends.

West Ham manager David Moyes had rather less options to rotate amid a three-game unbeaten streak that has seen his team climb out of the relegation zone but, even with six changes, the same diligent organisation was evident.

Manuel Lanzini was unavailable after the Football Association had earlier confirmed the start of his retrospective two-game ban for simulation.

One especially eye-catching change recently for Arsenal has been Wenger’s preference in the Premier League for the defensive discipline at left-back of Ainsley Maitland-Niles over the more flamboyant qualities offered by Sead Kolasinac.

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