26 October 2015

Pick to Click: Alex Iwobi, bagger of a brace against Bayern...

The pundits and punters will tell you that Arsenal have not won in their last six visits to Hillsborough, as if this is meant to mean something. Maybe it does, until we realise that our last trip there was January 2000 and that looking to results that are any older than three or four years old means little, if anything at all. Still, the League Cup is full of pitfalls and pratfalls, and we at Arsenal need not look too far into our own past to dredge up some painful memories. On the other hand, it's been a few years since we got such a favorable draw, having faced Prem mainstays Southampton and West Brom in recent seasons (I dare not delve much deeper into the annals than that, thank you very much). Back to Sheffield Wednesday, whom we play on Tuesday, just what have they been up to recently?

To get to the fourth round, they've ousted League Two sides Oxford and Mansfield and then Prem side (for now) Newcastle. Meanwhile, in the Championship, they've been on a fine run of form, going undefeated in their last seven (four wins, three draws) and now sit in ninth position. This puts them above the recently relegated QPR and Fulham and nipping at the heels of Reading and Cardiff. They're currently four points from a play-off spot. They're in the mix and more than ready to play rough-and-tumble. Seeing off Newcastle might make us scoff, seeing as how Toon are offering a cartoonish impersonation of a Prem side, but it would be a mistake to write off Sheffield Wednesday.

While we at Arsenal might sneer a bit at the League Cup, it offers a chance for the Davids to slay the Goliaths. I'll toss off two names if only to put the fear of God in you: Birmingham. Bradford. Against each of these supposedly "inferior" clubs, we had our arses handed to us despite fielding our own full-strength squads. I'll toss in Reading as well, against whom we needed an epic, improbable comeback in order to advance. Long story short, the Davids of British football frequently rise to the challenge while the Goliaths.

We come into the match on our own fine run of form, undefeated in our last four, with only a freak deflection denying us a fourth consecutive clean sheet. Even if we are going to treat this one as a chance for a few Academy players to cut their teeth, we really should expect to advance to the fifth round.

Speaking of Academy players, I'm pinning 19-year old Alex Iwobi to make an impression. After all, against Bayern, he did score twice in a convincing 2-0 victory. Okay, so this was or the U19s, but give the lad credit. With Ramsey sidelined and Alexis deserving a rest, this could be Iwobi's chance to start, if not shine. He did train with the squad this week and was an unused substituted in the previous round against Tottenham. Apparently, Flamini's heroics rendered redundant the services of an actual striker, and Iwobi was rooted to the bench. However, having witnessed firsthand the pulsating pressures of a North London Derby (even if it was "just the League Cup"), Iwobi should seize the chance to prove himself useful.

Whether he plays as the striker, allowing Walcott and Giroud to rest, or whether he plays wide alongside one or the other, I'd assert that Iwobi will earn the attention of a fair few Gooners, if not Arsène himself, should he be given the chance.

Alex, what do you say?

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