Arsenal’s run in the Capital One Cup came to an unusually early end at the hands of Chelsea at the Fourth Round stage last night, with the game also notable for the fact that no players from outside the first-team squad entered the pitch at any stage.
Isaac Hayden and Nico Yennaris were unused substitutes, the latter returning to the first-team fold following his recent injury problems, but the likes of Chuba Akpom, Kristoffer Olsson and Hector Bellerin were left out entirely, whilst Thomas Eisfeld joined his compatriot Serge Gnabry in missing out through injury.
In many ways it was not surprising that Arsene Wenger elected to field such a strong side given the calibre of the opposition, but, now that Arsenal’s participation in the competition is over for another year, it will be interesting to see what the next steps will be for some of the aforementioned youngsters.
Barring a severe injury crisis, none of them (other than Gnabry who is already part of the first-team squad) are likely to compete for a regular place in the team before Christmas, with each fixture in the Premier League and Champions League of paramount importance. There are a whole host of fixtures to fulfil at youth level, with Arsenal competing in the U21 Premier League, the U21 Premier League Cup and the UEFA Youth League, but some players, Yennaris and Eisfeld in particular, would benefit greatly from a loan spell at a Championship or League One club.
Eisfeld will be 21 in January, and, although he scored a well-taken goal against West Bromwich Albion in the last round of the Capital One Cup, the German has just two senior appearances to his name. Yennaris, meanwhile, has found his progress halted by injury, and, whereas he once found himself on the cusp of the first-team squad, he now faces a battle to prolong his stay at the club beyond this season, with his contract due to expire in the summer.
Olsson, Bellerin and Akpom, the latter especially, all have a little more time on their side, but will still have been disappointed not to have been involved last night. Carl Jenkinson’s indifferent performances of late could open the door for Bellerin, but it is questionable whether the Spaniard is ready for the intensity of first-team football.
There was one positive to emerge from last night’s Capital One Cup action from an Arsenal perspective in the form of Ignasi Miquel, the central defender who was amongst the goalscorers as Leicester City progressed to the next round of the competition with a 4-3 victory over Fulham. The Spaniard has struggled to earn a place in the Leicester side in the Championship, but was impressive last night and will be hopeful that his loan side will enjoy a lengthy run in the competition.