Welcome back to Arsenal’s Cup. The Gunners have won the most FA Cups (14) & appeared in the most Finals (21). Despite the league form declining it’s a bright period for Arsenal and the FA Cup, having won it four times in the last seven seasons. On Saturday the 140th edition of the competition enters the Third Round Proper in which 64 clubs face-off, including the introduction of all Premier League and Championship sides.
Arsenal will host Newcastle, a side that sits 15th in the league and four points behind the Gunners. The Toons are winless in their last six matches, but as both sides are expected to feature some level of rotation, their current Premier League form goes a bit out the window.
Thomas Partey is back in full training but should be slowly eased back into the squad once he gains full fitness. Last time he was rushed back too quickly and it has cost him the last two months, except for one half against Spurs. Gabriel is the only other noted player on the team news update as he continues to progress through COVID protocols. Reiss Nelson was pictured in training (once again), but after Arteta admitted that the club should have been clear about his muscle injury in December, it’s probably best to consider him doubtful until Mikel adds him back to the starting day squad (which is hopefully is a surprise on Saturday).
- Alexandre Lacazette
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
- Bukayo Saka
- Emile Smith Rowe
- Dani Ceballos
- Granit Xhaka
- Héctor Bellerín
- Kieran Tierney
- Pablo Mari
- Calum Chambers
- Bernd Leno
- Left Out: Thomas Partey & Rob Holding
- Out: Gabriel (COVID isolation) & Reiss Nelson (muscular issue)
- The team has finally hit a positive run so you hate to disrupt that, but at the same time, this FA Cup tie offers a great chance to give the rest of the squad minutes while we wait for the Europa League knockout rounds. Nketiah, Pepe & Martinelli seem like safe picks having missed out at the weekend.
- But I think we may be in for another Willian start. It’s either him or Willock in the 10 role on Saturday and I don’t think Arteta is as closed on Willian as some of the fanbase is. If it’s me I’m putting Willock at 10 and starting Xhaka or Ceballos alongside Elneny in the midfield. However, we’ve seen how Lacazette has turned his season around, so why not believe that Willian can do the same? Yes, he’s had a brutal first season at Arsenal, minus that opening day match at Fulham, but I think given the right situation he too could kick-start his form.
- On the backline again hopefully we see rotation. David Luiz is available again, Mustafi seems ideal for this match (while he is still at the club), and Cedric is an easy pick in place of Bellerin for a Cup tie. Maitland-Niles should 100% start this match, but where? It might be a better scenario to have him lineup beside Elneny and push Willock into Willian’s spot, but then who is the left-back? It’s not worth risking Tierney here and if Arteta switches to a back three, would it be worth it to risk Saka as the LWB/LM? Tolaji Bola is back from his half season loan at Rochdale, but a start here seems unlikely. Perhaps AMN at LB is the safest pick while we wait to see what happens in the transfer window.
- Runarsson. Now I know that wasn’t a great performance by him last time out, but it was Manchester City. He was serviceable in the Europa League and probably needs a confidence boost that a match against Newcastle could provide. Arthur Okonkwo from the U23s was training with the senior side this week, but starting him over Runarsson would be a big statement of Arteta’s opinion of him this early in his time at the club. While he may not look like the #2 keeper we want right now, it’s better to try and build him up when possible in case anything happens to Leno. We can readdress the transfer and depth chart this summer.
- With Kolasinac’s departure, Gabriel’s protocols to work through, the expanded bench & again assuming Nelson is out until we see him fit (why did the club never list him on the injury report?), only two players have to sit out. Those spots should be based on fitness, so Partey makes sense. Ease him back in and potentially we see him next weekend in the Premier League as a sub. In a perfect world, I’d prefer resting Tierney as he is the only true left-back the club has now, but he seems like a safe option to keep on the bench. You don’t need three CBs on the bench and Chambers could use a sub appearance, so I opted to keep Mari who has played less this season, and rest Holding.
How to watch
Saturday (1/9) at 12:30 pm ET / 9:30 am PT on ESPN+.