Arsenal to change youth policy
London - Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is set to change his policy of predominantly using younger players in the League Cup as he seeks to end the club's seven-year trophy drought.
The Gunners play Bradford in the quarter-finals on Tuesday and Wenger is expected to field a strong team in what looks to be their best chance of a title. After all, the players have six days to recover afterward before playing again and there is only one world-class side left in the tournament, Chelsea.
"We will have an experienced squad at Bradford. We have a good recovery time ahead of the game at Reading on Monday, so we can use the players we want to use," Wenger said.
Arsenal beat Manchester United in a shootout to win the 2005 FA Cup to win their last title.
Also Tuesday, Norwich host Aston Villa, while Middlesbrough visit Swansea on Wednesday.
In Arsenal's last League Cup game, a 7-5 victory at English Premier League side Reading, the inexperienced Damian Martinez, Ignasi Miquel and Serge Gnabry all started, as well as more senior players who have fallen out of favour with Wenger, such as Andrei Arshavin, Marouane Chamakh and Sebastien Squillaci.
One young player who made an impact was Thomas Eisfeld. Arsenal's January signing from Borussia Dortmund made his first-team debut in the game, entering the field with Reading leading 4-1.
"When I came onto the pitch, I had this really good feeling," Eisfeld said. "I thought we could still turn the game around. Then it happened and I'm delighted that we managed to win the game in the way we did."
Arsenal scored two minutes after Eisfeld's introduction, and then twice more before the final whistle, sending the game into extra time. Reading were able to score a fifth, but Chamakh scored a double and Theo Walcott completed a hat trick, winning the game for Arsenal.
"In a way it's unbelievable to make your debut in a game like that because we, the club, wrote ourselves into the history books." Eisfeld said.
Bradford are fourth in the fourth tier of English soccer. Arsenal last visited Bradford 12 years ago when both clubs were in the Premier League. That game, which featured Thierry Henry and Ashley Cole, ended 1-1. Bradford haven't lost for five games, and won their past two matches without conceding. The club drew 0-0 with Wigan in the last round of the League Cup before winning on penalties against the Premier League team.
The tournament has attracted more fans this season, largely because of the high-scoring games. Arsenal have hit 13 goals in their two preceding games, while Chelsea beat Manchester United 5-4 in the last-16 match. In total, the eight games in the previous round featured 37 goals.
While Norwich and Aston Villa earned their places in the quarter-finals in similar fashion, relying on late goals, the sides are in contrasting form.
Norwich had an impressive first-half against Swansea on Saturday, scoring three times without reply. Despite conceding three in the second-half, Robert Snodgrass's free-kick won the seven-goal game for Norwich.
Villa drew their home match against Stoke 0-0 to be two points away from the bottom three. Villa are seven points and four places behind Norwich. The two teams have played once this season, drawing 1-1 in the Premier League in October.
Despite Swansea's disappointing league result at the weekend, the only Welsh team to have ever played in the Premier League are in eighth position, three points away from Everton in fourth. In the previous round, Swansea won 3-1 at defending champions Liverpool.
Middlesbrough are third in English football's second division, and won their last match 3-2 at Peterborough. Boro also progressed in the last round away to Premier League opposition, beating Sunderland 1-0.
The final quarter-final game between Leeds and Chelsea will be played on December 19 because of the Blues' commitments at the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan.