Of Ramsdale, rotation, and revenge: a Brentford preview


We go into today’s League Cup with more questions than answers. Is our uneven form a truer form of our levels than our thrilling but ultimately disappointing title-chase of last year, or does it merely reflect the challenge of seeing key players and and of integrating new ones while injuries plague the squad? There are probably more, but I’m a lazy, lazy man, Roger. A trip to face Brentford offers a tricksy mix of options—it’s not as clear a chance to rotate thoroughly as a match against, say, Lincoln City, but we should still be able to rest key starters and give valuable opportunities to others.

Of course, there’s first the small matter of revenge. While I admire and respect Brentford for how they play under Thomas Frank, I still want some payback for the hiding they handed us at the start of the 2021-22 season. Yes, we did do them 1-2 in the reverse fixture and went further in our last trip to GTech Community Stadium. I want more, and tonight is a chance to get some. With that in mind, I hope we can count on Arteta to name a mixed squad that is still strong enough to overwhelm Frank’s injury-riddled side.

Brentford might be one of the squads suffering more injuries (six) than ours (four). Of course, there’s also the still-suspended Ivan Toney. Long story short, Frank’s had to do some serious rotation already, and he may have little choice other than to rest the few starters who are still healthy. Having just suffered a thorough thrashing at the Toffees’ hands—their first Prem win and the first match in which they’ve scored more than two goals (even Calvert-Lewin scored!)—Brentford have only the woeful form of Luton, Burnely, and Sheffield United to thank for keeping them out of the drop zone. Given those injuries and that suspension, they have quite enough to deal with already. That’s not the same as saying we take anything for granted, of course.

As for us, getting the right mix will be key. Vital players like Saka, White, Saliba, and Ødegaard must be rested, full stop. From there, at a risk of heaping pressure on a player, this is a gilt-edged chance for Havertz to break his duck and get the monkey off his back and add a third animal-based idiom. Brentford’s reconfigured defense is leaky. Smith Rowe should start. Arteta himself said that “he will have a big chance to show that he can play at this level and be a really important player for us.” There’s some quizzical phrasing there as it seems like he’s already shown he can play at this level…

Nelson, Kiwior, Elneny (!), and Tomiyasu should get some minutes, and I’d like to see a few youngsters like Nwaneri or Cozier-Duberry make the squad and perhaps even start

Then, there’s the issue of Ramsdale and Raya. Raya, on loan from Brentford, may or may not even be eligible. Frank has been coy on the subject, saying he “doesn’t know if Brentford have given Arsenal permission” for Raya to play. The official matchday programme says different, but there’s just enough uncertainty there to give Ramsdale the nod. This skirts the issue of whether Raya has done to Ramsdale what Ramsdale did to Leno for now, even if Raya was a bit less than his best against Tottenham. Some call for Hein to start. Were it against Lincoln City or Port Vale, I’d get behind that, but Brentford still pose enough of a threat through Mbuemo (should he start) that I’d rather see Ramsdale be given a chance to prove himself.

This is a cup we have a legitimate chance to win. It’s a half-dozen fixtures, several of which could be against Championship or League One sides, and, even if it’s a lesser cup, we should have a go at it.

Brentford 0-3 Arsenal. You read it here first unless you read it somewhere else first. Add your predictions below the fold…

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11 thoughts on “Of Ramsdale, rotation, and revenge: a Brentford preview

  1. Kelechi

    I would go full strength in defense or close to it at least, Zinny-Gabi-Saliba-Tomiyasu and then some academy players in midfield/attack so they can play with greater confidence knowing that their mistakes won’t be as costly. If we can secure a strong lead of 0-3, then start throwing on more players.

    Final score: Brentford 1-4 Arsenal

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      Good call. I might replace Saliba with Kiwior given how vital he is (not that Magalhaes isn’t) but a strong defensive platform would allow for more positive risk-taking should those youngsters get the nod from Arteta.

  2. Mike VW

    Rammers should start the domestic cup. Raya hasnt done anything to be “dropped” yet.

    Maybe play Havertz at so he can get closer to goal and maybe even score. He was good there for Chelski last season.

    Bees 0-2 Arsenal

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      I’m not sure I want to move Havertz around. Arteta seems to want him in that #8 role. I’d prefer that he practice that against a depleted side even if moving him closer to goal might increase his chance at scoring (which would depend on others creating chances for him). There’s always a risk of making too many changes in these situations and disrupting chemistry.

  3. Eoin

    This feels like a perfect opportunity for some youngsters to get some quality play against a prim side in a low risk situation. If we crash out, I don’t think anyone will be all that bothered.

    Brentford 0-3 Arsenal

  4. Brentford beats Arsenal

    so, you DIDN”T learn the lesson we taught you, eh? go on, keep underestimating and see what you get. get out your bib and have the fork & knife ready, you’re going to eat your words!

    Brentford 2-0 Arsenal just for old times sake

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      I’d say we learned a lesson from what is now ancient history – don’t go into a newly promoted side’s stadium that’s full of raucous fans since the first time since March 2020 with numerous new starters and injuries to regulars.

      We’ve more than handled things against Brentford since that debacle.

      Anyway, thanks for somehow finding this blog and popping up in the comments section. Enjoy the match today.

    2. Jax

      Brentford & Brighton are probably the two more popular sides among supporters of other Premier League teams, so if by some weird twist of fate your team should win tonight, I’ll be quite pleased for them to continue successfully in this event, along with BHA who will absolutely paste Chelsea.

      1. Eoin

        true, they’re two of the rare smaller sides that try to play on the front foot instead of just packing the box and hoping to hit on a counter or a set-piece. Sometimes they get punished but it’s easier to appreciate ambition and positive play. Frank doesn’t make excuses or whine, either. All good traits. Still want to advance past them though.

  5. A Simple Truth

    this lineup should be almost unrecognizable, so much so that it should appear as if we’re mailing it in…we have neither the depth nor the managerial nous required to challenge for things on a multitude of fronts, so it would be wise to give our bench and academdy piece options some starting minutes…hope we win, but don’t care one iota about this competition, at least not at this juncture

  6. Pingback: The anti-Havertz agenda persists despite a growing body of evidence. | Woolwich 1886, an Arsenal site

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