Arsenal kick off their FA Cup campaign with an away tie against Preston North End. PNE, if you are abbreviationally inclined, play in the Championship and are currently 11th in the second division. Their goals for and against totals from the season fall in line with that thoroughly average league position.
If you’re looking for familiar faces in the opposition’s squad, Anders Lindegaard, Jermaine Beckford, and Aidan McGeady have all had spells in the Premier League and featured against the Gunners. PNE will surely be looking forward to this home tie against one of the giants in English football.
Arsenal will likely deploy a mostly full strength side. Alexis Sánchez will be rested and Mesut Özil is still out, though he has recovered from the illness that kept him out of the Crystal Palace and AFC Bournemouth ties. Laurent Koscielny is set to receive a breather and David Ospina will come in for Petr Čech in goal. Youngsters Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Ainsley Maitland-Niles, among others, could start but will more likely populate the bench.
Saturday, January 7th, 2017
9:30AM PT/12:30PM ET/5:30PM BT
Deepdale Stadium, Preston, England
The Gunners are a long shot to contend for the Premier League title at this point and are going up against the Bayern Munich buzzsaw in the Champions League so the FA Cup is once again far and away the Gunners’ best chance at winning a trophy this season. Losing against lower level opposition in the club’s first round in the FA Cup would be bad for the team and catastrophic for the fans who will be up in arms about another potentially wasted season. With Özil and Alexis’ contract extensions still up in the air, it would be wise to be competing (and winning) as many trophies as possible.
Francis Coquelin is out for a few weeks after coming off injured against Bournemouth with a hamstring issue. As I mentioned earlier, Alexis, Özil, Koscielny, and Čech will all be rested. Theo Walcott and Kieran Gibbs are both still out. It is probably too soon for Per Mertesacker and Danny Welbeck to be in the squad after their returns from injury. The most disappointing news is that Santi Cazorla is a long ways away from return.
Ospina; Gabriel, Mustafi, Holding, Monreal; Ramsey, Xhaka; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Iwobi, Lucas; Giroud
How to watch:
In the US, FS1 or streaming on Fox Sports Go.
In the not-US, check out livesoccer.tv.