Arsene Wenger's Cup gamble pays off
Arsenal manager relieved to advance to the next round
Arsenal advanced to the next round of the Capital One Cup on penalties on Wednesday night. Manager Arsene Wenger will feel his gamble on a young and inexperienced squad to face West Brom paid off - just about.
Resting his tired first-teamers will have obviously been a risk for Arsene Wenger, but progression to the next round was the target - and one he duly achieved. The method of the victory will soon be forgotten, as will the quality of the match.
In truth, the Arsenal performance looked as disjointed as the team, with the first half passing with little creativity of note at all. Thomas Eisfeld scored in the second half, with Saido Berahino equalling the tie just before the end of normal time. Arsenal progressed on penalties.
Despite the signing of Mesut Özil for a club record £42.5m, Arsenal's first team is already stretched to the limit with injuries to Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Thomas Rosicky.
The Arsenal manager is often accused of 'not taking the competition seriously' by putting out young and inexperienced sides in the Capital One Cup, and when these sides are eliminated from the competition, questions are asked as to the effectiveness of this kind of squad management.
Luckily for the Frenchman, his selection did the minimum of what was asked of them and qualification was secured.
It remains to be seen whether Wenger will take the same approach against Chelsea in the next round, with the game to be played amidst a run of six important games in 20 days. Arsenal host Dortmund in the Champions League, before travelling to Crystal Palace in the Premier League.
Their four following fixtures read Chelsea (H), Liverpool (H), Dortmund (A) and Manchester United (A). By the end of this run, Arsenal could be established as title contenders, or facing another season without silverware.
Arsene Wenger may be tempted to gamble again with his team selection this season, but like Wednesday will have shown, the result could easily go the other way.