After staging a three match recovery in the Premier League, Arsenal have been able to rest their weary bones after the rigours of the festive football schedule with a week from competitive action.
But now they embark on the campaign to defend their FA Cup title, with a third round tie against Newcastle United.
A fellow Premier League opponent In the third round is always pretty unlucky, and the Magpies will be hungry for success, with no trophy for nearly seventy years. The desire to end that torrid run should manifest on the pitch, so Mikel Arteta will need to factor that into his team selection and formation.
Not only that, but the winning habit has ben pretty hard for Arsenal to pick up. So now we’re on a run, Arteta will aim to keep that going. Confidences are restoring slowly, but there are still a few that could do with a boost. Our skipper is one of them, as his goals have dried up of late.
Still, the magic of the FA Cup could prove to be an inspiration to Auba, as it was in our victorious campaign last season, where our Gabon striker took matters into his own hands in both the Semi-Final and Final to help us grab the trophy.
Will Arteta give Auba the nod for this game? Will rotation be the order of the day with our Premier League fixtures showing no signs of slowing down – a match against Crystal Palace in less than a week, followed by a game against Newcastle, again, three days later?
Arteta has some big decisions to make.
Thomas Partey may make his long-awaited return to the side. The Ghanaian has been training with the first team and could be straight in. Alternatively, Ainsley Maitland-Niles could get the nod in midfield, with Xhaka having played plenty in the last two games.
Who will play in attack though? The man in form is Alexandre Lacazette and dropping a man with a run going may be madness, but Eddie Nketiah and Folarin Balogun are chomping at the bit for some minutes – and Laca could be saved for the Eagles on Thursday.
Gabriel is back and available for selection, but Calum Chambers could come in for this one, having recovered from long term injury and having fresher legs. With Shkodran Mustafi in the shop window, the German could be given a start to show off to any potential suitors.
Player to watch
The Brazilian looked a dud in his first season with Newcastle, especially considering his price tag, but the powerful frontman has started to prove his doubters wrong. He will never be prolific, but his constant movement, his ability in the air and his physical prowess will not only give markers a headache, but will create space for any willing runners like Almiron. JoeLinton will be a real handful.
How this could go
Arsenal will want to keep their hands on THEIR trophy. We have won it more than anyone else and we are defending champions. Besides, silverware is hard to come by these days, with certain clubs having a monopoly on success of late. So Arteta will want his men to give it their all.
And rightly so, as the FA Cup is a window into Europe too. With our Premier League hopes looking slim, keeping hold of the FA Cup may well be our best bet of gatecrashing the Europa League again.
Despite having a week off, Arteta needs to balance the need to rotate and give the fringe players the minutes they need, with keeping the match sharpness and rhythm that has built up over three consecutive wins. It’s a fine balancing act and one Arteta needs to get right.
Newcastle will be tough opponents, but they don’t carry too much goalscoring threat. They defend well though, and if we don’t score in the first 60 mins, it could get nervy, which will play into Steve Bruce’s hands. We need to score early and then their gameplan will be ruined – they will need to come out and attack.
Hit ‘em fast boys, we can get to the next round if we do.
Predicted Lineup – Leno, Bellerin, Mari, Holding, Tierney, Elneny, Xhaka, Saka, Martinelli, Auba, Laca
Predicted Scoreline – 3-1 to The Arsenal
Try and pick Arteta's brains and pick the team here.