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Nottingham Forest v Arsenal - Cup Defence Begins Against Forest

It's back! The one tournament that, in recent years, no side have been able to hold a candle to Arsenal in, the FA Cup, has returned. Arsenal will make the trip to the City Ground to face Nottingham Forest for the beginning of the Gunner's title defence in the 3rd round of the competition.Arsenal have fantastic pedigree in this competition in recent years, having won the trophy in 3 of the last 4 times of asking, firstly against Hull City in 2014; then Aston Villa in 2015; and most recently against Chelsea last year.Impressively, Arsene Wenger has never lost at this stage of the competition – however, he will not be on the side-lines for this game, as he begins his touchline ban for the comments he made about referee Mike Dean following the West Bromwich Albion match on New Year’s Eve.Wenger will be watching from the stands for the game, along with the first leg of the league cup semi-final against Chelsea and the league match against Bournemouth next weekend. The Frenchman must also pay a £40,000 fine.Rare to have a three-match ban effect you across three different competitions, but as is the chaos of Arsenal’s fixture list at the moment.Nottingham Forest are one of the most decorated teams in the country, although for the past few decades, they have fallen on slightly harder times.The two-time European Cup Winners are currently sitting in 14th place in the Championship, 11 points off the play-offs. Currently in their 18th season away from the Premier League, Forest do not appear like they will be rectifying that this season either, with the club currently in a period of unknowingness following the sacking of manager Mark Warburton.Caretaker manager Gary Brazil will be in charge for the meeting with Arsenal, as the permanent position remains vacant. With a new manager not appearing to be overly close in the pipeline and a league fixture against Aston Villa at the weekend, it would be easy for Forest to disregard this game. Even though that is the case, you can be sure they will be doing their utmost to progress, with the cup likely to be the only possibility of silverware from this seasons campaign. Arsenal have had to play a frankly ridiculous number of fixture over the past few weeks, with the busy league period being accompanied by Europa League, League Cup and now FA Cup matches. Although it's a lot of football, it's good to still be in contention in all competitions at this point of the season - and with Premier League title aspirations already somewhere between incredibly unlikely and impossible at this stage, Cup football has once again taken on a larger significance for Arsenal.With the amount of fixtures that have been contested over the last few weeks, it may be easy to somewhat dismiss this game against supposedly inferior opposition, but if the selected Arsenal team isn't on form to defend their title, they may be caught out which would represent a major disappointment. In terms of personnel to be selected for the match at Forest, it is expected that the majority of players who contested in the entertaining two-two draw against Chelsea will be rested, with plenty of injuries still within the side.The latest player to be ruled out for the Gunners is Granit Xhaka, who has picked up a groin problem. Olivier Giroud, Laurent Koscielny, Aaron Ramsey, Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolasinac are still unavailable after picking up injuries in recent matches.Youngsters Jo Willock and Reiss Nelson are likely to play a part in the match, with Ainsley Maitland-Niles also likely to get more playing time against Forest, continuing on from his several league appearances in recent weeks. A shake-up at the back will also see Per Mertesacker and Mathieu Debuchy introduced, with David Ospina between the posts.Wilshire will likely be given a rest after starting the past 6 games, and with Xhaka's injury, it seems likely to be a central midfield of Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny. Willock may play in front of them, with a forward line of fringe-players Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott offering experience up-top. There may be some more experienced players on the bench to be called upon if necessary, but Wenger may opt to take a chance on some youngsters as substitutes as well - the early rounds of the cup are always a good time to introduce promising young players in domestic competition. Speaking about his expected line-up, the manager said that changes would be made. "I will rotate a little bit because we have also come out of a very high-loaded period," he said. "We played three big games in six days and twice we were away, followed by a big game at home."We have to keep our level of focus, of urgency, because the third round is very difficult especially when you play away from home against a Championship team."And a level of urgency will certainly be required, because even though Forest find themselves in a state of disarray, they have not conceded in eight of their last 12 FA Cup matches. Forest may be missing striker Daryl Murphy after he was forced to sit out the previous league match against Leeds United with injury, although a test will take place to see whether the club’s talisman can play a part before kick-off.Ben Breton or Tyler Walker will likely be deputising in the Irishman’s absence, and both will be searching for the goals to cause a cup upset in front of their home supporters.For Arsenal, the FA Cup has been a tournament with generally only positive connotations in recent years, so hopefully that continues Sunday afternoon.Arsenal play Nottingham Forest at the City Ground in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup on Sunday the 7th of January with kick-off at 4pm.