They say that the Carling Cup lacks the magic of the FA Cup, but try telling that to the fans of Brentford and Northampton who witnessed their teams perform some of the biggest giant-killings in recent cup history.

The lower league sides saw off Everton and Liverpool respectively (both on penalties) to progress to the fourth round draw this Saturday. Joining them will be Newcastle who saw off Chelsea in a thriller, West Bromwich Albion who came from a goal down to beat Manchester City, and Manchester United who saw off the brave challenge from Scunthorpe.

Aston Villa, Wigan, Birmingham, Stoke, West Ham and Wolves also remain of the Premier League sides. Then, of course, there is Arsenal who saw off bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the North London derby to make it to the next round.

It is not certain why Arsene Wenger put out such a strong side on Tuesday evening. Perhaps it was to reclaim the bragging rights from Tottenham after last season's Premier League defeat, or maybe its because Wenger is finally taking the Carling Cup as a serious trophy to aim for, or maybe its because he has a stronger squad than usual to pick from?

A mix of all three could well be the answer.

In season's past, Wenger has picked a squad predominately based on youth, but not this time.

Goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski is the regular number two, with EPL, FA Cup, European and International experience. The back four of Emmanuel Eboue, Laurent Koscielny, Johan Djourou and Kieran Gibbs was the strongest and most experienced available. In midfield, Wenger opted for Tomas Rosicky, Samir Nasri, Denilson and Jack Wilshere, all including Wilshere are first-teamers. Up front Wenger opted for Carlos Vela and Henri Lansbury. Out of the whole starting XI only Lansbury would be in any way considered a youth player - and at that, he has played for the Arsenal first team on many occasions and has spent many a month on loan.

Even when things were tense at 1-1, instead of looking at the youth of Jay Emmanuel-Thomas on the bench, Wenger opted to bring on Andrey Arshavin, Marouane Chamakh and Gael Clichy. Make no doubt, Wenger wanted to win and that he did.

Perhaps this year, all those seasons of playing the youth teams will pay off in the Carling Cup. Gibbs, Wilshere, Ramsey, Lansbury, Vela et al. have all learned their trade in this competition in previous seasons to such an extent they could be considered veterans of the cup. If Wenger can continue to mix the available experience with these younger players, Arsenal could well be strolling out in Wembley on final day.

Of course a lot depends on the draw, Stoke and Manchester United would like to be avoided. But with Nicklas Bendtner, Robin van Persie, Theo Walcott, Thomas Vermaelen, Aaron Ramsey and Cesc Fabregas all to come back from injury, Wenger has a stronger squad than in previous seasons to call upon.

There will be of course a balance to be struck as Arsenal challenge on four fronts (once the FA Cup starts) but with some big names making their exit, Arsenal will have to fancy their chances of bringing home a prize this season. 

Even if Wenger resorts to playing more younger players in the next round, who will fancy playing a team comprising of Gibbs, Wilshere, Vela et al? I dare say, not too many at all.