Arteta goes quite strong
Arsenal fans will be nervous about Kieran Tierney starting again given his importance, but Arteta has deemed it a small gamble worth taking. Arsenal shed reserve left-back Sead Kolasinac earlier this week as he moved back to German club Schalke. Aubameyang, Willian, Pepe and Martinelli have all missed league games lately and so there is no risk of burn-out there. The absence of Balogun from the squad speaks to the state of contract negotiations.
Newcastle look like adopting a direct approach with Joelinton and Carroll starting up top. Former Arsenal man Isaac Hayden is in a defensive midfield role. Dubravka is back in goal – Darlow has been in brilliant form in the Premier League.
The teams the old fashioned way
Arsenal: Leno; Cedric, Luiz, Mari, Tierney; Elneny, Willock; Pepe, Willian, Martinelli; Aubameyang
Newcastle: Dubravka; Krafth, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett; Hayden, Longstaff, Hendrick, Almiron; Joelinton, Carroll
A repeat of the 1998 final
The FA Cup proved a salve for Arsenal in both the final years of the Arsene Wenger-era and the unstable period that followed his departure, with victory against Chelsea in August taking their historic tally to 14.
The north London club have an exceptional record in the world’s oldest club competition, lifting the cup in four of the last six seasons and losing just two of their previous 32 ties. Last season’s triumph was Mikel Arteta’s first major trophy as a manager, though he will ultimately be judged on Arsenal’s Premier League and Europa League performances in the remainder of the season.
A home tie against a distracted Newcastle looks a cushy draw. Steve Bruce’s team have been in poor form in the league, were badly affected by a Covid outbreak in December and have a postponed match at Aston Villa to reschedule. This could prove to be a case of famous last words, but they do no look like a team shaping up for a long cup run. Newcastle also have a poor FA Cup record, losing 10 of their previous 11 ties against Premier League opposition and failing to progress beyond the last eight since 2005.
Arsenal manager Arteta has plenty of options when it comes to team selection. Summer signing and best midfielder Thomas Partey is available again after he was rushed back from a muscular injury for the north London derby in early December. Another summer arrival, centre-back Gabriel, is back from self-isolation and both players need minutes to get back up to speed. Arteta may choose to rest the likes of Emile Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka and Kieran Tierney who have been key players in their festive uptick, as well as senior forwards Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. That would still leave Willian, Nicolas Pepe, Joe Willock, Gabriel Martinelli, Eddie Nketiah and Folarin Balogun to choose from in the attacking positions. Nketiah and Balogun’s future is uncertain and selection today might reveal something about their fate as Arsenal players.
Full team news on the way shortly.