Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Coventry City, Capital One Cup Third Round

Emirates Stadium, London
Wednesday, September 26
2:45 p.m. EDT, 7:45 p.m. BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Mike Jones
    • Assistants: Mike Mullarkey and Peter Bankes
    • 4th Official: Anthony D'Urso
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 41 Arsenal wins, 14 Coventry wins, 19 draws
  • Last Year in the League Cup
    • Arsenal: Lost Fifth Round to Manchester City
    • Coventry: Lost First Round to Bury
  • Arsenal's Premier League Form: W // D-D-W-W-D
  • Coventry's League One Form: D-L-L-L-L-L
Now, this looks like a team that's fighting for each other.
Brilliant to see how emphatically everyone celebrated that
goal. Photo: Daily Mail.
I couldn't remember the last time I was as happy about a draw as I was on Sunday. That bothered me, so I actually had to go back through the fixture lists from the past few seasons to find the last time I was happy with a draw. It had to be the FA Cup tie with Leeds in January of 2011 that was rescued by a late penalty to force a replay. Since then, every Arsenal draw has either been in the "painful to watch" category or the "two points dropped rather than one gained" category. Of course, that feeling is always based on the context of the match; had that Leeds game been a league match and not a cup tie, it would've probably gone in the "two points dropped" category, but I digress. I think you get the point.

Sunday was definitely in the "one point gained" category and that's a nice feeling. Arsenal are proving they can snare results in difficult places. A draw at Stoke and a draw at City, along with a road win in Europe and a win at Anfield; these are all acceptable results. The season opening 0-0 with Sunderland is arguably, so far, the only match where you can look back with some disappointment (the draw at Stoke could also go in that column, but that's a more historically tricky fixture.) I thought, even by halftime on Sunday, that Arsenal looked like a side that's capable of winning something, and it's been a long time since that was true.

With Chelsea at home looming on the horizon, we turn our attention to the third competition of the fall season, the League Cup, which is now sponsored by Capital One and not Carling. As such, I think I'm going to just call it the League Cup, plain and simple, from now on. Or, go back to calling it the Milk Cup. Or the Littlewoods Cup.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Szczesny (ankle), Rosicky (Achilles), Sagna (broken leg), Wilshere (foot)
Doubts: Vermaelen (illness), Fabianski (knee), Chamakh (illness)

I did a Google search for the purposes of making a Frimpong
joke about being on the BEEEENCH, but Google knows
better than that.
There will be rotation. Oh yes, there will be rotation. The thing is, the quality of Arsenal's bench has been so strong lately, "rotation" means starts for Andrei Arshavin, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Andre Santos, and likely Johan Djourou as well. Nico Yennaris could start too; he was a mascot the last time Coventry played at Arsenal in North London in 2000.

Rumor has it Emmanuel Frimpong will make the bench, seven months after suffering knee ligament damage, though I still think it would be way too soon for him to return to action, having just returned to full training on Friday. Arsene Wenger has said he wanted to wait longer, but Frimpong is too eager to return. It seems risky to me.

Vito Mannone will likely be rested in goal ahead of Chelsea's visit at the weekend, meaning unless Lukasz Fabianski is fit after his shoulder injury, either Damian Martinez or James Shea will start in goal. Both were shown in training photographs yesterday.

In addition, a billion youngsters could feature at some point during this match (yes, a billion,) so I'm not even going to try to predict the starting XI.

Coventry Squad News

Out: Henderson (loan terms), McGoldrick (cup tied)

Coventry City's main goal scoring threat, striker David McGoldrick, is ineligible to play in this match. The on-loan striker played for Nottingham Forest in their second round loss to Wigan, meaning the youngster is cup tied. Midfielder Conor Henderson is not eligible to play against his parent club. I know players can receive special privilege to play against parent clubs, but I've never been positive of those rules. For example, Sanchez Watt was allowed to play for Leeds against Arsenal in the aforementioned FA Cup tie in 2011, but one round later, Benik Afobe was not allowed to play for Huddersfield Town. It's my understanding that Henderson will not be made available.

Coventry completed a three month loan move for Derby County midfielder James Bailey yesterday and he might feature tonight.

Current Form

Danny Livesey scores the winner for Carlisle against
Coventry at the weekend. Livesey spelled backwards is
"YES EVIL." So, really, Coventry have Satan to blame.
Photo: Daily Mail.
You've heard about Arsenal's form quite a bit already this season. Things are pretty good right now in Gunnerland. The thing is, with a lot of squad rotation expected, Arsenal's form before this match has really nothing to do with how it goes and Arsenal's form after this match is likely not going to be affected too much by the result.

That's why I'll use the rest of this section to go into more detail about Coventry's form, which you are less likely to know a lot about. In a word, Coventry's form is bad. On August 25th, Coventry blew a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 with Bury and were booed off the pitch at home. It was three draws from three matches to start the season for the Sky Blues and manager Andy Thorn was sacked. From there, Coventry have lost five straight, to Crewe, Stevenage, Tranmere Rovers, Shrewsbury, and Carlisle. Mark Robins was named Coventry's new manager last week. His first match in charge was the 2-1 home loss to Carlisle at the weekend.

Coventry have three wins in cup competitions so far this year: over Dagenham & Redbridge (1-0 on a late penalty) and Birmingham City (3-2 in extra time) in the League Cup and over Burton Albion on penalties (10-9 and decided by the goalkeepers!) in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy. So, really, only one of those is a standard win.

Match Facts

In 2001, he was like a new signing!
Arsenal have not played Coventry City since the Sky Blues' last season in the top flight: 2000/01. In that season, Arsenal won 2-1 at Highbury and won 1-0 in Coventry. Coventry's last win against Arsenal was on December 26, 1999, a Boxing Day fixture (obviously.) It is worth mentioning that that remains the last time the Gunners were beaten on Boxing Day. Coventry's last win at Arsenal was in 1993; Arsenal are unbeaten in their last eight home meetings with the Sky Blues.

As for that most recent meeting with Coventry, the 1-0 win in 2001, I give you, this excerpt from the Guardian recapArsene Wenger has had his striking problems this season. So much so that he hailed the 31-year-old Dennis Bergkamp almost as a new signing after the Dutchman delivered a rare goal. Yeah...

Arsenal and Coventry have met three times in the League Cup. Arsenal won 2-1 in the second round in 1967, Coventry won 1-0 in the third round in 1991, and Arsenal won 1-0 in extra time in the fourth round in 1997. The first two of those matches were played in Coventry, the latter in London.

The last time Arsenal lost to lower tier competition in a domestic cup was in December of 2008, in the fifth round of the League Cup, to Burnley. The Clarets won promotion from the Championship that season. You would have to go back to 1983 to find the last time Arsenal were knocked out of the League Cup by a third tier side; that was done by Walsall, 3-1 at Highbury.

In a worrying statistic, Arsenal have conceded first in four consecutive League Cup ties.

The Referee

Every time Mike Jones is the referee, I will
include pictures of the rapper instead.
The referee is Chester-based Mike Jones. Jones took charge of two Arsenal matches last season: the 3-2 come from behind FA Cup win over Aston Villa (in which Jones awarded Arsenal two penalties) and the season ending 3-2 win at West Bromwich Albion that secured third place. So... put all of your money on 3-2 to the Arsenal, apparently?

Jones has not been in charge of a Coventry game since 2009/10, when the Sky Blues were still in the Championship. In two matches that year, they drew 2-2 at QPR and lost to then-Premier League Portsmouth at home in an FA Cup replay. Stephen Wright had the worst of those two matches; he was sent off in the QPR game and his injury time own goal gave Pompey their equalizer. Maybe that's why he's at Wrexham now.

Around the Third Round

Manchester City was knocked out of the tournament by
Neon Villa last night. Photo: BBC.
In two of the past three League Cup tournaments, Arsenal have been eliminated by Manchester City. That's not going to happen again this year, as City was eliminated by an extra time brace from Charles N'Zogbia, as Aston Villa won 4-2 at Eastlands. Elsewhere yesterday, Wolves forgot they were scheduled to play a game and lost 6-0 to Chelsea, Everton seemed to forget too and lost 2-1 at Leeds, Swansea struggled a bit but saw off Crawley Town 3-2, Lee Cattermole was sent off, the world kept spinning, and Sunderland beat MK Dons 2-0 anyway, Wigan comfortably beat West Ham 4-1 at Upton Park, Southampton beat Sheffield Wednesday 2-0, Middlesbrough beat Preston North End 3-1 on the road, Swindon beat Burnley 3-1, and after extra time, Bradford beat Burton Albion 3-2.

Elsewhere today, our dear friends Tottenham Hotspur travel to Carlisle United, Norwich City hosts Doncaster Rovers at Carrow Road, and there are three all-Premier League matches: Manchester United hosts Newcastle at Old Trafford, QPR hosts Reading at Loftus Road, and West Bromwich Albion hosts Liverpool at the Hawthorns, where the Baggies beat the Reds 3-0 on the opening day of the season.