Arsenal have to bounce back from their shock FA Cup exit at a ground where they haven’t won since 2011.
The Carabao Cup would have been at the bottom of the priority list this season, but after Sunday’s events in the FA Cup, the pressure is on Arsenal to win it.
Doing so will not be easy. Arsenal have to overcome Chelsea over two legs if they want to reach the final, where they would have a good chance of facing Manchester City who play Championship side Bristol City.
Arsenal do possess a good record against Antonio Conte’s side. The Italian has only managed to defeat Wenger once since arriving in English football in 2016. Since then, Arsenal have beaten them to an FA Cup and a Community Shield.
However, Stamford Bridge remains a difficult ground for the team. The last time we won there in any competition was back in 2011, when a Robin van Persie hat-trick helped Arsenal to a 5-3 win.
The 0-0 draw there earlier this season was the best we’ve managed since, so we may have to look elsewhere for good omens. One is that the last time Arsenal reached the semi-final stage of this competition, they progressed to the final.
It was in 2011 when we played Championship side Ipswich Town, and did the most Arsenal thing ever by losing the first leg 1-0. Fortunately, we still had the home leg to play, and goals from Nicklas Bendtner, Laurent Koscielny and Cesc Fabregas saw us through to the final.
Having the second leg at home could work to Arsenal’s benefit, given how good our record there has been this season. As we’ve struggled on the road, our priority for this first leg should be to not lose the whole tie.
You’d fancy Arsenal to overcome a one, maybe even a two goal deficit at home. Nicking an away goal could also be decisive.
It should be noted that away goals in this competition only count after extra-time. Due to Arsenal’s porous defence, which shipped two goals to Chelsea at the Emirates just a week ago, it’d be useful to have one or two up our sleeve.
To that end, Arsene Wenger must field the strongest eleven he has available. His rotation of the side proved to be his undoing on Sunday at Nottingham Forest, as several of the squad players failed to perform.
Although Bournemouth at the weekend is a tricky game, Arsenal simply cannot afford to leave the likes of Jack Wilshere, Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Alexandre Lacazette out of the team. Chelsea managed to rest a few of their first-team stars against Norwich on Saturday, and will surely put out a strong side as well.
Winning the game isn’t beyond Arsenal, but neither is losing so badly they have no chance in the return leg. It’s the latter that has defined Arsenal’s approach to two-legged ties in Europe in recent seasons, and something they have to start putting right.
If that means doing what we did earlier in the season when we visited Stamford Bridge, being hard to beat and grinding out a draw, then so be it.