Arsenal head into this evening’s FA Cup meeting with Oxford United in a fantastic run of form, with Mikel Arteta‘s side having lost just one of their last eight fixtures in all competitions, with six of these results being victories.
As such, securing a win in their cup clash against League One opposition should not pose the Premier League leaders much of a problem, with the prospect of a trip to Manchester City awaiting the winner of tonight’s third-round tie.
However, with the north London derby up next in the league for the Gunners, it would appear likely that the Spanish manager will field something of a rotated XI at the Kassam Stadium this evening.
So, just how many changes will the 40-year-old make to the side that started the 0-0 draw with Newcastle United last time out?
Here’s how we at Football FanCast think the Arsenal starting XI could look, as well as the latest team and injury news.
While both Gabriel Jesus and Reiss Nelson remain sidelined as a result of long-term injuries, with Arteta revealing in his pre-match press conference that Emile Smith Rowe looks set to make a long-awaited return from a groin injury this evening, we predict that the Spaniard will make nine changes from the side that started the stalemate with Newcastle last week.
The first of these alterations comes between the sticks, with favoured cup goalkeeper Matt Turner coming in for usual first-choice shot-stopper Aaron Ramsdale.
Meanwhile, there are a further three changes in the back four, with Oleksandr Zinchenko and Ben White making way for Kieran Tierney and Takehiro Tomiyasu at left and right-back respectively, while Rob Holding also takes the spot of Gabriel Magalhaes to partner William Saliba in the heart of the Gunners’ defence.
There are wholesale changes in the midfield three, with Granit Xhaka, Thomas Partey and Martin Odegaard all being rested, with Arteta handing starts to Albert Sambi Lokonga, Mohamed Elneny and Fabio Vieira – who former England international Joe Cole claimed possesses a “velvet left foot” following his display against Bodo/Glimt in the Europa League earlier this season.
The final two changes come in attack, with the “aggressive” – in the words of journalist Josh Bunting – 19-year-old Marquinhos being handed just his fourth start of the season on the right wing and the aforementioned Smith Rowe finally returning to the starting XI on the left flank, while Eddie Nketiah keeps his place leading the Gunners’ line.