Fresh off their shocking exit from the Europa League on Thursday, Arsenal will look to bounce back when they travel south to face Portsmouth in the 5th round of the FA Cup. In addition to needing a win for squad morale, it’s the Gunners last remaining shot at silverware this season (and a guaranteed spot in the Europa League for the winners), so I’d expect whoever Mikel Arteta selects to be up for things on Monday.
Portsmouth won’t be an easy out; Fratton Park is a tough place to play. Pompey have won their last 10 home matches in all competitions and haven’t lost in 19, a run that dates back to August. But Gunners haven’t lost to a League One or lower side in the FA Cup since 1992, a run of 12 fixtures that meet that criteria, and please, for the love of all that is holy, let’s not have that run end on the south coast.
Mikel Arteta hinted that he might rotate the squad a bit for the match. That’s good — tomorrow’s match is the team’s 5th in fifteen days. Arsenal looked leggy at the end of the Everton match last weekend, and a number of players looked tired against Olympiacos. I expect to see a Pablo Mari-Rob Holding centerback duo and for Reiss Nelson to get the nod. Arteta may even bring Ainsley Maitland-Niles in from the cold, which is needed if only to give Hector Bellerin a rest. All four played 45 minutes for the U23’s on Saturday to knock off the rust.
Arsenal’s injury list remains mostly unchanged. Shkodran Mustafi left Thursday’s loss early, but the only update given did not specify whether he was forced off with cramp or if it was something more serious. He’s not on the injury report so it looks to have been cramp, but I doubt he makes the matchday squad; he needs a break. Sead Kolasinac went this week for further specialist assessment of the “significant” shoulder injury he picked up against Everton. He is expected to be out of training until at least the end of March. Kieran Tierney is hoping to return to full training this week, Cedric Soares next week. Calum Chambers is out for the season.
A bunch of the teams ahead of Arsenal in the Premier League dropped points this weekend. The Gunners would do well to generate some momentum with a win over Portsmouth heading into four should-win league matches (West Ham, @Brighton, @Southampton, Norwich) in the next few weeks.
WHAT: Arsenal at Portsmouth, FA Cup 5th Round
WHERE: Fratton Park, Portsmouth
WHEN: Monday, March 2nd 11:45 AM PT | 2:45 PM ET | 7:45 PM BT
US TV: Not broadcast, streaming on ESPN+ ($$$).
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