EFL Cup final: 5 big questions for Arsene Wenger
Manchester City stands in Arsene Wenger's path on his quest for EFL Cup glory. To finally win the competition, the Frenchman must outdo Pep Guardiola in every possible way. Tactics, team selection, shenanigans, even dress pattern.
But then, before that epic showdown at Wembley, before any thoughts of outsmarting the Spaniard, Monsieur Wenger must be true to himself. His team needs addressing. So many lingering questions hover around the London side. Here are five he must answer:
Three or four at the back?
Wenger's foray into a back-three has always felt a bit like a 57-year-old man buying a Porsche. The seat is too small; he's too close to the ground; nor is he prepared for the response when he steps on the gas. The experience makes everything he's done or tried seem out of sort. Although successful at the start, Wenger eventually crashed with a back-three. Teams were on to the trick.
The Frenchman returned to his conventional four-man line against Crystal Palace in December. He and the squad have felt pretty much at home since. Wenger could just have a surprise up his sleeve, however. The manager must decide quickly whether to pull it out against Guardiola.
Experience over youth?
Wenger's League Cup drought is partly due to overreliance on young players. This season hasn't been any different. Reiss Nelson, Edward Nketiah, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles have been the biggest beneficiaries of the boss' trust. The trio featured in every single EFL Cup game before the two-legged semi-final victory over Chelsea.
Will the Frenchman return to his young guns against City? Or will he stick with the experienced bunch who got the job done against the Blues? Or we gonna see a blend of both?
Cech or Ospina?
Another big decision is who pulls on the gloves? Petr Cech is primarily assigned to the Premier League. David Ospina has been betrothed to the cup competitions. The Colombian hasn't disappointed.
While Cech's form has depreciated significantly, Ospina is doing pretty well and better. Even with just one Premier League appearance under his belt, he doesn't seem rusty during cup outings. He's managed three clean sheets from six EFL tilts. Cech entered the weekend with more errors leading to goal than any other player in the division.
Why always Iwobi?
Wenger appears to have a special affection for Alex Iwobi. Even when the Nigerian's development has stunted, the manager has surprisingly kept faith. Flashy, silky passing aside, Iwobi adds nothing offensively. Joel Campbell and Yaya Sanogo, must be cursing their luck.
Iwobi will almost certainly get the nod alongside Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Mesut Ozil up front. When in all honesty he doesn't. Not at all.
Ramsey or Wilshere?
Does Jack Wilshere partner Granit Xhaka? Or should the returning Aaron Ramsey head straight into the mix. Another puzzle Wenger must unravel before the commute to Wembley.
Two very dissimilar playmakers, each exceptionally talented. Wilshere is best at ensuring fluidity, stringing together passes and intricate play. You aren't assured that with Ramsey in your team. The Welshman compensates with an indelible ability to burst forward, scoring or assisting with ease. He did so thrice against Swansea City. Who will Wenger pick as City's poison?