Parlour: Arsenal should target Carabao Cup success

Joe Williams

Former Arsenal midfielder Ray Parlour believes the Gunners should set their sights on winning the Carabao Cup this season.

The competition often rates far down the list of priorities for Premier League clubs, especially those who are also part of European tournaments.

Arsenal have ambitions of finishing in the top four for the first time since 2016 and will be looking to go one step further in the Europa League, having lost to London rivals Chelsea in last year’s final.

They host Sky Bet Championship promotion hopefuls Nottingham Forest in the third round on Tuesday night as they start their Carabao Cup campaign at the Emirates Stadium.

But Parlour, who won the competition with Arsenal in 1993, feels that if head coach Unai Emery can find the right balancing act then the two-time winners can lift the trophy once again.

“I think he mixed the team with experience and youngsters,” Parlour said of Arsenal’s run to the quarter-finals in last season’s Carabao Cup – where they were beaten by neighbours Tottenham.

“There is no problem with that, it is good to give the youngsters game time and they have some very good youngsters at Arsenal – Reiss Nelson, (Ainsley) Maitland-Niles, Joe Willock and Emile Smith Rowe. It is great to see players like that come into the team.

“But you can also see how important the competition is to teams like Manchester City and it is another trophy to talk about at the end of the season.

“It is a magnificent achievement to win any competition and for Arsenal and Unai Emery, and the rest of the top six, they should be – and probably will be – taking it seriously.

“There are a lot of games and you get injuries through the season so it is a bit about balancing the squad.”

Arsenal lost the final to Manchester City in 2018, Arsene Wenger’s final season at the helm, and now Parlour – speaking to the PA news agency at the launch of this season’s Carabao Cup competition – thinks it presents Emery with a good opportunity for his first silverware since replacing the Frenchman.

“The big teams have got bigger squads but it still baffles me when you get to the latter stages of any cup competition and rest players,” he added.

“Arsenal fans would embrace another day out at Wembley and have a good time, as well as challenging to win the trophy – something Arsenal will be wanting to do, I’m sure.

“If you ask any fan around the country and say ‘do you want a Wembley day out to go for a cup and win a trophy’ they would say ‘yes, definitely’.

“I’m really surprised sometimes when teams rest players. It was the first ever trophy I won as a player and I really enjoyed it and now Emery could make it his first title in England as well.”

In truth, Emery is likely to make wholesale changes with the game coming just over 48 hours on from a 3-2 Premier League win over Aston Villa.

Rob Holding will be pushing for his first involvement since December after overcoming a knee injury, while Emery’s youngsters could also get another chance to shine.