Wenger to play strong side despite rush of fixtures

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Arsenal go into tonight's League Cup quarter-final with Wigan Athletic suggesting that they will maintain their renewed commitment to the competition, despite a hectic schedule in recent weeks.

After years of playing younger sides in the League Cup Arsène Wenger has reverted to playing stronger teams this season, and has been rewarded with two notable away wins, at Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United. While acknowledging that some players will have to be rested by virtue of the fact that tonight's match is Arsenal's eighth in November, Wenger has pledged to play as strong a team as possible.

"The only thing I promise is that we will take the tie seriously," Wenger insisted. "But I have to consider how many games my players play. For six weeks we have played every three days with Champions League and internationals. I will consider who needs to play and who needs to rest."

Arsenal have been stretched by the demands of playing in both the League Cup and the Champions League on top of their Premier League commitments so far this season.

Arsenal won 4-1 at White Hart Lane before winning 4-0 at Newcastle United. A number of established names started both games, including Emmanuel Eboué, Laurent Koscielny, Denilson and Tomas Rosicky. Eboué is back in the squad after recovering quicker than expected from a knee injury while Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott are both expected to start tonight.

This could well be a function of an increased desire to win a major trophy this season, Arsenal not having won anything since the 2005 FA Cup. They were knocked out at the quarter-final stage in both of the last two seasons, losing 3-0 at Manchester City one year ago, and 2-0 at Burnley in 2008 with Kevin McDonald scoring both goals.

Tonight's opponents, Wigan Athletic, knocked Arsenal out at the semi-final stage in 2006. After a 1-0 defeat at what was then called the JJB Stadium in the first leg, Arsenal levelled through Thierry Henry in normal time and went ahead through Van Persie in extra time. But Jason Roberts' 119th-minute winner sent Wigan to their first major final.

Wigan welcome back Paraguay international Antolin Alcaraz after a suspension although top scorer Hugo Rodallega is still banned. Club captain Gary Caldwell and Emmerson Boyce are injury doubts while James McCarthy has been ruled out.

Arsenal (probable, 4-3-3): Almunia; Eboué, Koscielny, Djourou, Gibbs; Denilson, Wilshere, Rosicky; Walcott, Van Persie, Bendtner.

Wigan Athletic (4-5-1): Al Habsi; Stam, Gohouri, Alcaraz, Figueroa; Gomez, Diame, Thomas, Cleverley, N'Zogbia; Boselli.