Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta dreaming of young guns marking Gunners revival with Wembley trip

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Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta dreaming of young guns marking Gunners revival with Wembley trip
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When Arsenal lost their first three League games of the season, few would have predicted that, come January, they would be just one win away from a cup final at Wembley.

That, however, is exactly the situation Arsenal find themselves in tonight as they welcome Liverpool to Emirates Stadium for the second leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final, with the tie finely poised after a 0-0 draw at Anfield last week.

Arsenal have Wembley and a possible showdown with Chelsea next month firmly in their sights, and Mikel Arteta is dreaming of his young squad marking their revival by winning a trophy.

“We have the opportunity to get into a final, which is close to a title, against a big opponent, in our stadium, with our people, so we are very excited to play the game,” he said. “This is why we’re here, to bring success, to bring trophies and joy to our people and keep doing what historically this club has always done. That’s our aim.”

After revamping their squad in the summer and specifically targeting young players, Arsenal showed how they are looking towards the future.

The plan is to build around a core group of youngsters, such as Gabriel Martinelli, who can grow and develop together to the point where they are challenging for the Premier League title and major trophies every season.

The success and speed of that plan is ahead of schedule, though, and the fact this young team could reach a Wembley final in their first season together is not lost on Arteta. “I can sense that excitement when they train and they are really looking forward to it,” he said yesterday.

“The majority of them haven’t experienced that (playing at Wembley). This is why you play football.

“This is why you want to play for this club. It is to be challenging for those titles, playing the kind of game that we have to play — and then go and win it. This is the best memory that you can have.”

Arsenal’s preparations for the second leg of this semi-final have, however, not been ideal.

Cynics will point to them not having played on Sunday because the north London derby against Tottenham was postponed, but the fitness crisis that led to that has caused training to be difficult.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

“We are struggling, we’ve been struggling all week with numbers,” said Arteta. “Hopefully we can bring some people back, not in the best condition because they haven’t trained for a long time, but with a team which can hopefully take us into a final.”

Arsenal have also had to contend with the backlash over Sunday’s postponement, with many arguing they should have played.

Arteta defended the club repeatedly yesterday, insisting Arsenal had followed the rules, but the furore is hardly ideal ahead of such a big game.

“We are not going to get anybody damaging our name, or trying to lie about things that haven’t occurred,” said Arteta.

Arsenal’s fitness crisis is easing and they will hope to have Emile Smith Rowe back tonight, while Bukayo Saka should be available after recovering from a knock sustained at Anfield.

 (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
(Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Midfield remains a problem area, though, as Granit Xhaka is suspended after his red card last week. Martin Odegaard may have to play in a deeper role, which may not be a bad thing on a night where Arsenal must be assertive.

Last week’s first leg was a case of backs-to-the-wall defending as they spent 65 minutes playing with 10 men. They managed to hold firm, but at home Arteta will know his side needs to take charge of the game.

He is missing some of the personnel who could help do that, with Thomas Partey not yet back from the Africa Cup of Nations, but that has not dented Arteta’s belief that Arsenal can be at Wembley next month.

“We’re going to put out the strongest team that we can with only one intention; after the final whistle, we are at Wembley and playing in the final,” he said.

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