The FA Cup has never really excited me as a competition. Perhaps that is because growing up in the States, I’ve never really felt the “magic of the cup” of which people speak so reverently. It could also be that as a supporter of a big club that until relatively recently was an annual contender to win the Premier League, the cup competitions weren’t the only chance at glory. I suppose the FA Cup is the March Madness of English football — a single-elimination tournament with Cinderella runs and massive upsets. Maybe I should get more excited about it.
The unfortunate reality at Arsenal is that for the near future, the cup competitions are the club’s only shot at glory. The Gunners aren’t going to win the Premier League this year. They likely aren’t going to be competing for it next season either. The hope is that Mikel Arteta can have the club in the conversation for the league title in a few years, but unless something changes, Arsenal will not be spending to the levels of their competitors, so even that is a big ask. For right now, if the club wants trophies (which every club does), the cups are the only realistic option.
I think that the FA Cup has added significance for Arsenal this season. The club needs something good. The transition out of the Wenger era was always going to be difficult, but I don’t think many expected the Gunners to sink as far as they have. A trophy would go a long way towards lifting the atmosphere in North London.
Staying alive in the FA Cup also more means competitive matches for the Gunners. Normally, the FA Cup has a bit of a Catch-22 feel to it — the club keeps a shot at a trophy alive but the additional fixtures force difficult decisions about which players to rest and when. But right now, the more matches the better. Arsenal need meaningful repetitions in Mikel Arteta’s system to practice his tactics.
I expect Arteta to deploy a near-full strength lineup against the Cherries with no midweek match and a break looming after next Sunday’s trip to Burnley. The Gunners will be without Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and David Luiz, who are both suspended. Reiss Nelson (hamstring) and Sead Kolasinac (thigh) are out; both hope to return to training during the upcoming break. Sokratis is back in full training after his illness and may be available.
Bournemouth have a slew of injured players. Defenders Charlie Daniels, Chris Mepham, and Jack Stacey, midfielders David Brooks, Jordan Ibe, and Junior Stanislas, and attackers Joshua King and Arnaut Groeneveld are all out. The Cherries will have the services of Steve Cook, however, who returns from a one-match suspension.
The two sides have met twice this season. They drew 1-1 at Dean Court a month ago in Mikel Arteta’s first match in charge. Arsenal prevailed 1-0 at the Emirates in October.
WHAT: Arsenal at Bournemouth, FA Cup 4th Round
WHERE: Dean Court (Vitality Stadium)
WHEN: Monday, January 27th 12 PM PT | 3 PM ET | 8 PM BT
US TV: Not broadcast. Stream on ESPN+ ($$$)
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