Who to play? Who not to play? That is the question facing Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho in the buildup to their Capital One Cup match at the Emirates scheduled for Tuesday between two of the form teams in England. The must-see match kicks off at 3:45pm ET on Tuesday, October 29.
Programming note: For viewers in the United States, the only place you can watch Arsenal against Chelsea in the Capital One Cup is on beIN SPORT. Even if you don’t have a TV subscription to beIN SPORT, you can access the channel live via an online streaming service DishWorld for $10/month. Read our review of DishWorld. And sign up for DishWorld via their website.
In the past, managers at big clubs such as Arsenal and Chelsea have used the League Cup to rest first team players while giving valuable playing time to reserve and youth academy players. But every now and then the fixture list throws a curveball at a manager.
Shortly after Wenger and Mourinho found out they were drawn against each other at the end of September, they undoubtedly checked their fixture list and started mulling over possible team sheets.
There have always been managers who complain about the fixture lists when it comes to mid-week cup ties. Mourinho has been the most vocal critic leading up to the Tuesday matchup in London. His complaints are valid. Chelsea are coming off a huge win over Manchester City on Sunday and now have to field a team 48 hours later at the Emirates.
Critics of Mourinho will say that Chelsea have a big enough squad to compete in these competitions no matter when the games are scheduled, and that would be true. But officials at the League Cup would have come off better had they granted the club an extra day of rest before scheduling the match.
After learning that his side would have to play twice in three days, Mourinho originally commented that he would field a squad of u-21 players against the Gunners. He has since backed off that comment and stated the following:
“We are going to give the game that the people that put the game on Tuesday want.” When asked if he was going to field a squad of youth players he stated, “It’s not the plan. We have to respect also our fans.”
The Chelsea team sheet should still have big names in it. More than likely the match at the Emirates will showcase Juan Mata and David Luiz. Strikers Samuel Eto’o and Demba Ba should also see time, as well as midfielders Michael Essien, John Obi Mikel, and Willian. So viewers shouldn’t worry that Chelsea will be fielding a weaker squad.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has been quiet over the past few days. Perhaps he has been studying his team sheet to find any healthy players. The club has already confirmed that Theo Walcott, Yaya Sanogo, Lukas Podolski, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Abou Diaby, Mathieu Flamini and Mikel Arteta (suspension) will all not feature in the match.
Jack Wilshere has been an injury concern but was cleared fit, but Serge Gnabry is facing a late fitness test. Arsenal’s provisional squad is filled with players who participated in Saturday’s 2-0 win at Selhurst Park. But the Gunners are playing their fourth match in a span of eleven days and their squad arguably has less depth than Chelsea.
Another concern for Wenger is the fact that Arsenal is heading into a testing period of their fixture list. In the coming days Arsenal are due to face Liverpool, Borussia Dortmund, and Manchester United.
The Gunners are currently top of the Premier League, but it’s still very early in the season. The Capital One Cup may not be a priority for the club, but the competition represents a chance to end their eight-year trophy drought.
In 2011, Arsenal was a few seconds away from an extra 30 minutes in their Carling Cup final (since renamed the Capital One Cup) against Birmingham City before they imploded. That match was the last time the Gunners had a chance to win silverware. This season’s cup tournament may represent their best opportunity to end that drought.
All is quiet on the Mourinho-Wenger front
What has been surprising about the lead up to this match is the fact that the relationship between Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho has not been in the spotlight. It might be because the fixture list and team sheets are a real concern for both managers. But it also may be that Mourinho doesn’t see Arsenal as a competitor for the league title since most experts are tipping Manchester City and Chelsea.
In the past, Mourinho never hesitated to direct some comments towards the Frenchman. In October 2005, Arsene Wenger had made some statements regarding Chelsea’s spending. Mourinho responded with this comment regarding Wenger:
“I think he is one of these people who is a voyeur. He likes to watch other people. There are some guys who, when they are at home, have a big telescope to see what happens in other families. He speaks, speaks, speaks about Chelsea. I don’t know if he wants my job. He loves Chelsea.”
The ‘voyeur’ nickname would reach cult status in the footballing world.
Before the 2007 Carling Cup final between Arsenal and Chelsea, Mourinho had boasted to the press regarding his superior record and Champions League trophy. Wenger took those words to heart and responded with this:
“There are plenty of managers who have won the Champions League who will not be considered great managers.”
Chelsea eventually won that match 2-1.
The war of words between the two continued even while Mourinho was in Italy. While at Inter Milan, the Portuguese manager had this comment:
“I’m not the person to be in a club three or four years without winning a trophy. Maybe Wenger should explain to Arsenal supporters how he cannot win a single little trophy since 2005.”
And while Mourinho was at Real Madrid, Wenger was asked about a November 2010 Champions League match where it had been suspected that Mourinho had instructed some of his players to get booked in order to clear their disciplinary record ahead of the knock-out stages. Wenger referred to the actions as a “pity” and said, “It looks, frankly, horrible.”
This incensed Mourinho and he later shot back, “Instead of speaking about Real Madrid, Mr. Wenger should speak about Arsenal and explain how he lost 2-0 against a team in the Champions League for the first time.” He was referring to Arsenal’s 2-0 defeat to Sporting Braga in Group H of the 2010-11 Champions League campaign.
But it seems those days are in the past. Upon returning to Chelsea as ‘The Happy One,’ Mourinho appeared to put any hostilities between him and Wenger to bed. “Sometimes you say something the other doesn’t like and you react,” Mourinho said. “But at the end of the day he is a nice man and I respect him a lot and I have the feeling that he is the same in relation to me.”
Regardless of the fixture list, team sheets, and relationship between the two manager, this is a London Derby.
Yes, this matchup doesn’t have the impact of the North London Derby. But it can be guaranteed that as soon as the clubs come out of the tunnel to the roar of 60,000 supporters, they will understand the impact of this fixture.
This derby has steadily intensified since the 1930′s and its hostility has only increased since the rise of Chelsea Football Club in the 2000’s.
Chelsea fans will want their club to take the air out of their London rival’s early season success. And Arsenal supporters will want their players to beat the “Rent Boys” and continue their march towards a trophy winning season.
Nothing would be better, for either set of supporters, than to have their team end their rival’s trophy campaign.