Wednesday’s team performance against Southampton was abysmal in the first half and slightly improved in the second half but still not good enough.
And there is no doubt that the fringe players did not do themselves any favours by playing as poorly as they did.
We know football is a squad game those days, because there are too many games played between club and international football. Players need to be rotated to avoid fatigue and injuries. But when the fringe players don’t turn up on the night like they did in the EFL Cup, they cannot really stake a claim at starting a big game.
We know Arsene Wenger is quite a conservative coach and it takes a lot of time and bad performances for a player to lose his place in the starting XI. That’s why those EFL and sometimes FA Cup games are so vital to the back-up and fringe players. If they don’t perform in those lower intensity and pressure games, how will they cope with the big ones?
How can the manager trust them to play well, if they cannot do it in easier games? Obviously players who are not used to playing with each other will find it hard to get things going but still, those players damaged their short and medium term prospects on Wednesday night.
Jenkinson won’t nick Bellerin’s place when the Spaniard is back. Gabriel and Holding won’t replace Koscielny and Mustafi. There is a case for Gibbs to take over from Monreal and a couple more bad performances from the Spanish left-back might seal it.
Coquelin, Xhaka, Ramsey and Elneny are first team regulars, so it was really damage limitation for them in that game. Reine-Adelaide did not put a solid case to be included on the bench at future first team games, while Iwobi did not really do enough to justify a start next game ahead of Walcott, Sanchez or any other forward.
Oxlade-Chamberlain did well enough to get a potential recall in the starting XI against West Ham. Lucas Perez is short of match fitness, but with so many injuries in the attacking part of the squad, a place on the bench on Saturday might be possible.
If the fringe and back up players don’t take the chances they get offered, they might end up regretting it and spend a lot of time watching games from the stands in the coming months rather than running on the pitch.