After beating Newcastle in their opening game of this season’s FA Cup, Arsenal take on Southampton at St Mary’s on Saturday afternoon hoping to take another major step in their bid to retain their trophy.
Mikel Arteta’s side are the record winners of the competition, and beat Chelsea in last year’s showpiece finale. But Southampton away from home poses a real challenge, and with the Gunners facing the Saints in the Premier League just days later in another crucial fixture, there could well be some big changes to the starting line up.
And with that in mind, below is a look at how the Gunners may shape up to face Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men in the FA Cup fourth round.
In goal, Bernd Leno will likely keep his place in between the sticks, with Alex Runarsson’s calamitous performances in the Carabao Cup seemingly ending any chance of him featuring.
In front of him, Hector Bellerin should return in place of Cedric, whilst Ainsley Maitland-Niles may get another opportunity to prove his worth on the opposite flank.
Saturday could also see the return of Gabriel, with the Brazilian having missed the past few games and seeing the likes of Pablo Mari and David Luiz partner Rob Holding in what has been a very strong run of form defensively for the Gunners – they’ve conceded just one goal in their past six games, including five successive clean sheets.
The midfield area should see a revamp with Arteta surely unlikely to risk Thomas Partey after his recently struggles with injury, and that could see Mohamed Elneny partner Granit Xhaka in the engine room.
Further ahead, the likes of Gabriel Martinelli, Willian and the £36m-rated Nicolas Pepe could all get their opportunities to start, with Eddie Nketiah given the nod up front as Arteta rests some key names amidst this busy schedule.
Predicted XI: Leno; Bellerin, Holding, Gabriel, Maitland-Niles; Elneny, Xhaka; Pepe, Willian, Martinelli; Nketiah.
Meanwhile, Arsenal must sign this “phenomenon”…