Tonight is one of Wenger’s most important games of the season

By Avenell Dave

Every season it goes the same way – Arsenal put in one or two good performances in the Carling Cup and the media gets carried away with the next golden generation.

Whether we get knocked out in the second round we play or, as in 2007, reach the final, the hysteria will be deafening.

What we cannot do is lose this evening.

The facts are that we have a small squad, a young squad, and one which suffers with injuries as much as any other that plays at the top level.

There are rumours that the lack of new players joining the club over the last couple of years has been due not just to Arséne Wenger not wanting to spend money, but down to a major black hole in the club’s finances. It could be a long time before we know the truth.

The fact remains that the youth team and Reserve team players are now even more important to Arsenal than ever.

The likes of Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Carlos Vela, Kieran Gibbs and even Armand Traore need games and a West Brom side who thumped fellow promotion chasers Middlesbrough 5-0 away will be a suitable test.

But with a few quality players close to fitness and first team contention, it’s at the back where we need to get really sharp.

Can you imagine Thomas Vermaelen and William Gallas playing every single game for us this season?

That’s why the injury to Johann Djourou is such a blow – and the potential partnership this evening of wantaway Philippe Senderos and Fishface Silvestre is worryingly close to first team reality.

Which is why one of them should give way this evening to Kyle Bartley, who was so impressive during the youth team’s Double last season.

Great in the air, mobile and with the ability to pass the ball more than two yards, Bartley is Bolton's loss and our gain and could be the next great defender to come through our junior ranks.

It's an important night for Carlos Vela as well.

His strikes last season against Sheffield United were memorable, but he needs a game like tonight to get himself fit and transfer his Cup form to the Premier League. He is capable of doing so but needs to prove to Wenger that he warrants a place in the squad.

As for jack Wilshere, Wenger has already admitted he wants to take it easy with our new wonderboy but with Abou Diaby and the improving Manu Eboue as his rivals with samir Nasri out, I'm sure Jacko will want to prove he deserves more opportunities in big games.

Whoever plays, a comprehensive, controlled performance will do so much not just for the reserves, as most of them are, but for the first team too.

The more impressive performances, the further we go in this competition, the quicker our younger players are going to be ready for the inevitable demands that are going to be placed on the squad as the season starts to take shape.