Arsenal will seek to avoid last season’s humiliation when they face Blackpool in the third round of the FA Cup this week. The Gunners were knocked out in the same round last season, which, in turn, was their first elimination at this stage since 1995-1996.
However, the North London giants are expected to make a host of changes as they deal with player fatigue and other issues that came to the forefront following a hectic schedule in the past couple of weeks.
Arsenal team news
Defenders Rob Holding, Danny Welbeck and Henrikh Mkhitaryan will continue their spell on the sidelines while Hector Bellerin, Nacho Monreal and Mesut Ozil are doubtful, although the latter is nearing his return to full fitness. Shkodran Mustafi is also unlikely to feature as he recovers from his knock. Meanwhile, Konstantinos Mavropanos is back in training.
Predicted Arsenal lineup vs Blackpool (4-4-1-1)
Unai Emery will ring in the changes this weekend. We should see Laurent Koscielny partner Sokratis Papastathopoulos at the heart of the Arsenal defence, despite the fact that both of them started in the midweek win over Fulham.
In the fullback slots, Stephan Lichtsteiner could be sacrificed and might have to make way for Ainsley-Maitland Niles, who started as a wingback against the Cottagers. Carl Jenkinson could start on the opposite flank, replacing Sead Kolasinac, who appears to be the only reliable left-back option available for Emery at the moment with Monreal having an injury-plagued campaign.
Petr Cech will replace Bernd Leno in the Arsenal goal, although the Czech Republic legend needs to perform well if he is to make a case for being included in the starting lineup more often.
Granit Xhaka and Lucas Torreira have both been ever-present figures in the Arsenal midfield this season. But, we could expect Emery to give them a breather this weekend, paving the way for Mohamed Elneny and Joe Willock to start at the base of Arsenal’s midfield.
Elneny, in particular, will be keen to make an impression, having struggled to make a breakthrough in the starting eleven this season.
Elsewhere, Aaron Ramsey will operate as the central attacking midfielder. The Welshman is almost destined to leave the club either this month or in the summer and a solid performance against Blackpool could be fitting.
Emery has hinted that he will give youngsters the opportunity to shine in this fixture, especially in the attacking department. Thus, we can expect London born winger Bukayo Saka to feature. He could be deployed as the left winger while another talented attacker in Eddie Nketiah can operate on the opposite flank.
And finally, the Arsenal attack should be led by Alexandre Lacazette, who scored the third goal in Arsenal’s comfortable 4-1 win over Fulham.