Let’s just forget about the Premier League for the moment. We know this is what you’ve been waiting for. The Cup! Well, technically, it’s the second Cup. But hey it’s something that has gone well for Arsenal this season and that is rare, so let’s enjoy it. The Gunners entered in the Third Round where they knocked out Leicester City 2-0 thanks to an own goal and a late strike by Eddie Nketiah.
Round Four was the week of back-to-back Liverpool matches. The Cup tie went to penalty kicks where we got that ice-cold PK from Maitland-Niles on the way to a 5-4 result. Our prize for beating Leicester City and Liverpool? Manchester City. The defending League Cup winners who beat Bournemouth and Burnley to get here. City have only lost once since the start of October and as always will be a big challenge for Mikel Arteta and the Arsenal backline. Looking for optimism? Arsenal beat City 2-0 last season (July) in the FA Cup. Can Arteta can conjure up some more much needed Cup magic for the Gunners and the supporters?
- Eddie Nketiah
- Gabriel Martinelli
- Nicolas Pepe
- Dani Ceballos
- Ainsley Maitland-Niles
- David Luiz
- Alex Runarsson
- Left Out: Shkodran Mustafi, Pablo Mari, Calum Chambers & Emile Smith Rowe
- Out: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (calf), Granit Xhaka (red card), Thomas Partey (thigh injury)
- Nothing has worked as planned this season, but there are limited options. Arteta has been reluctant to dive further into this squad’s depth to test Emile Smith Rowe further, but can we please see Reiss Nelson on Tuesday? After a few solid Europa League performances it looked as though he was in line for a Premier League start before his knock in training with Sead Kolasinac. But Nelson has been off the injury list for a few matches now but hasn’t even made the bench. Is there something else going on that we aren’t aware of? If not, it’s time to roll the dice with him here.
- Up top, I fully expect to see Lacazette back in the starting XI. Manchester City will control the match and most of the possession so Arsenal will need hold up and physical play and Laca is still our best option for that. On the left Saka likely gets another start with Aubameyang out with a minor calf injury and Willian failing to do anything against Everton.
- Gabriel is back and Mikel will need his best backline against City’s attack. Can Gabriel, Tierney, and Holding go once again or will he give a chance to a combination with Mari, Luiz, and Mustafi? With Hector Bellerin missing on Saturday you’d think he gets a start in the Cup. On the left, if Saka is on the attacking line and Tierney the left CB, then it comes down to Maitland-Niles (who started against Everton) and Kolasinac.
- In midfield, Arsenal are rotating three midfielders at this point hoping they all don’t get injured. Elneny starts once again (everyone knew he’d be important this year right?) and Willock starts with Ceballos back on the bench.
- If this were an early Cup match or not against City perhaps Arteta would rotate more. But he, and the club, desperately need a win and he will not want to shy away from his former boss. Personally, I’d love to see a 4-2-3-1 with Kolasinac dropped, Emile Smith Rowe brought in on as the left winger, and Saka shifted to the 10. Perhaps if Nketiah had been stronger on Saturday he could have returned with Lacazette as the 10. Or if Martinelli was fully fit. And I’d hope to bring on Pepe, Folarin Balogun, and Martinelli on in the second half to keep putting pressure on City’s backline and/or chase the match. But recent history says we should temper our expectations of Arteta’s flexibility right now.
The holders have lifted the trophy in each of the last three seasons and five times in the last seven years, and another triumph this term would see them equal Liverpool as the competition’s most successful ever club.
Guardiola is expected to make changes for Tuesday’s match given the hectic festive schedule in the Premier League, although he should still be able to field a strong team.
Club-record goalscorer Sergio Aguero is one of those who could return to the starting XI as he looks to build his way back up to full match fitness after an injury-interrupted campaign to date.
There have been questions raised over whether John Stones can play so many games in such quick succession recently and so there is a chance he could be rested but, given that he has played far less football than Ruben Dias this season, Guardiola may take the chance to give his centre-back partner a rest instead.