Third Round of the FA Cup. So often a game where we are used to see a reserve team rolled out following the hectic busy schedule.
Under normal circumstances, even against a high flying Leeds United, you would normally expect to see a second string be put out for tonight’s game.
It would include (if everyone was fit) the likes of Rob Holding, Calum Chambers, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Saed Kolasinac, Matteo Guendouzi, Reiss Nelson and Bukayo Saka. But these are not normal circumstances.
Taking into account Arsenal’s poor league form and the current mini-injury crisis we face, Mikel Arteta would be foolish to make too many changes.
Add in that Arteta needs to building confidence in his players following their 1st home win in months against Manchester United, and that it is a trophy that Arsenal can win, tonight needs to see a near full strength team.
One change by Arteta will be in goal. Emiliano Martinez likely to come in for Bernd Leno. The back 4, however, should be the same as that which kept a first clean sheet against Manchester United.
Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, David Luiz and Kolasinac must be given the chance to carry on their good work. To build a partnership. The unit of the back 4 is better than quality individual defenders.
Hector Bellerin and Rob Holding were having their fitness assessed ahead of Chelsea, but neither were deemed fit enough to start against United, with Holding on the bench.
Holding has been out injured for nearly 2 months, following his yearlong lay off. Whilst Bellerin has not played since the defeat against Brighton on December 5th. The importance of the Leeds game means it is not one we can use to bring senior players back to full fitness. They will have to battle their way back into the team.
In the middle of the park Arteta has to continue re-building the Xhaka / Torreira partnership.
They are our best, most balanced midfield due and neither has really played enough in recent weeks to be “tired”.
Ahead of them, Nicolas Pepe must start wide right.
The only way he will become a superstar is by playing football. Another good performance off the back of the Man of the match performance against Man U will do wonders for his confidence going into the second half of the season.
Likewise Mesut Ozil must be pressed into action in the middle.
One change should be Dani Ceballos to come in for Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang on the left.
Nelson and Saka would both normally be n contention, but both have been getting enough game time recently so do not really need an FA Cup game to continue their progression/
Club captain Aubameyang has been putting in some huge shifts on the left hand side. Also moving forward out best starting XI could be utilising the creative duo of Ozil and Ceballos with Aubameyang ahead of him.
Lastly up top should be Gabriel Martinelli.
Without a goal in 4 games, Alexandre Lacazette should be dropped and the young Brazilian be able to make a case to get more regular game time up top if Arteta continues with Aubameyang on the bench.
On the bench we should see Leno, Bellerin, Holding, Guendouzi, Saka, Nelson and Laceztte. Give Aubameyang the weekend off.
Likely line up:
AMN Sokratis Luiz Kolasinac
Pepe Ozil Ceballos