Following their League Cup round of 16 victory over Reading on Tuesday, the Gunners have been rewarded with a quarter-final home clash against Southampton on November 29, and Wenger’s pursuit of the only English trophy he is yet to lay his hands is underway.
The last time both sides clashed in the League Cup in 2014, Southampton won by 2 goals to 1 in the reverse fixture. And Arsenal’s record prove they haven’t fared well against Premier League opponents in the competition. They have lost their last 3 League Cup home games against EPL sides, and if they will be able to break the jinx this time around interests many.
First off, they have to find their way around Claude Puel’s men once again having found it hard against them in September in the EPL. A Santi Cazorla stoppage-time penalty secured victory for the Gunners, and both teams have had a fine run since then.
Arsenal haven’t lost any of their 14 fixtures since their season’s opener loss to Liverpool, while Southampton’s only loss since the Gunners defeat came against Inter Milan in the Europa League on October 20.
While they aren’t the most threatening and lethargic side offensively, the Saints boast of one of the best defenses in the league, and have only conceded 8 goals this term – the joint 2nd best record.
But considering how Arsenal have been free scoring, having put the 2nd highest goals at the back of the opponents’ nets (19) thus far, their knockout clash is bound to be a keenly contested affair and could be a very close call.
Peradventure Arsene Wenger’s charges proceed to the semis, the easiest opponent they are likely to meet will be Hull City. That is if Newcastle fails to get the job done against the Tigers at the KCOM Stadium in their own quarter-finals fixture. Liverpool face off against Leeds, and Manchester United have a tough hurdle to cross in West Ham in the other 2 games.
3 – Arsenal have lost their last three League Cup home games against fellow Premier League sides. Rut.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) October 26, 2016
Chances are Arsenal will get to play another EPL side in the semis, and Liverpool is the last team they want to square-off with at this point. The Reds are arguably the best team out of all 8 quarter-finalists, and as such stand as the greatest stumbling block and favourites.
Arsenal will have to be in their best elements to pull off a victory in this competition, regardless of who they come up against now or in the next round(s).
The 2-time winners last won the League Cup in 1992-93, and though little significance has been placed on it of recent due to the prize money (£100,000) attached, adding the trophy to his cabinet will help complete the list of Arsene Wenger’s local trophies achievements and haul.
While giving the crop of talented youngsters at the club playing opportunities in such a competition in order to place more priority on the EPL and European prizes is the most reasonable thing to do, not winning the League Cup will forever leave a blemish on Wenger’s impeccable trophy record in England once he takes his final bow.
Winning it, on the other hand, will give the fans something to brag about even if the club wins or doesn’t win any other trophy this season. It could be their consolation.
Wenger knows best than to fail to pick up any silverware this term, no matter how little or insignificant it is. Arsenal must give it their best shot, but they must first win their battles against the known and familiar enemies. Can they finally do that at the 4th time of asking?