It will soon be Arsenal’s turn to get their 2022/2023 FA Cup campaign underway as they face League One opposition in Oxford United at the third-round stage on Monday night.
With the tie coming six days following a goalless draw against Newcastle United in the Premier League, the Gunners should be well rested which in turn could lead to some squad rotation from Mikel Arteta, especially with the small matter of a North London Derby on the horizon.
Unfortunately for the Arsenal manager, he can’t call upon Gabriel Jesus or Reiss Nelson against the U’s as the pair remain on the sidelines through injury. Although the good news is that Emile Smith Rowe’s return appears imminent after his versatility was heavily praised during the pre-match press conference.
“Emile can play as an attacking midfielder, as a winger and even as a nine; I think he’s played there before,” Arteta told football.london. “First of all, we need him fit and at his best, and when we have that, we have an incredible player that we have missed a lot in the last few months. Tomorrow he trains well, he will hopefully be available to give us something in the game.”
Having been out of action since September, Smith Rowe will certainly be short of match sharpness and this provides the Gunners boss with somewhat of a team selection dilemma. Does he go with the 22-year-old from the beginning or take a cautious approach and bring him off the bench in the second half?
Once again, football.london’s Arsenal writers Tom Canton and Tashan Deniran-Alleyne are on hand to offer their assistance to the Spanish tactician. Below, they take a look at who they think should be starting the FA Cup tie for the visitors against Oxford United on Monday night.
Tom Canton – Arsenal Writer
This is the game that highlights exactly how thin the Arsenal squad currently is right now. Where there might be scope for rotation, like we saw from title rivals Manchester City against Chelsea, the Gunners simply don’t have the same level of depth.
However, there should be warning signs from last year’s elimination at the same stage against Nottingham Forest. Arteta heavily rotated with a busy January having still got semi-final League Cup games to come and some of the squad hit by Covid-19 cases.
The big news is Emile Smith Rowe’s return and whilst many might have him play off the left, I think there’s an argument to throw him into Granit Xhaka’s position and give the Gunners more threat from the middle with Fabio Vieira. Xhaka’s change of role has seen him use the spaces used often by Smith Rowe when he played from the left last season.
The front three remains the same with only Marquinhos an option but with the North London Derby on the 15th, getting these guys scoring goals is important for momentum after the goalless draw with Newcastle. Changes can be made in the second to give rest if the scoreline is comfortable.
Canton’s Arsenal XI vs Oxford United: Turner; Tomiyasu, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney; Elneny, Vieira, Smith Rowe; Saka, Nketiah, Martinelli.
Tashan Deniran-Alleyne – Arsenal Writer
Whilst I expect rotation from Mikel Arteta for this FA Cup third-round tie, I would be surprised if the Arsenal manager makes wholesale changes. And let’s be honest, he doesn’t have the luxury of doing so and last season’s defeat against Nottingham Forest should serve as a reminder of what can go wrong.
With that said, I can see Matt Turner, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Kieran Tierney, Mohamed Elneny and Fabio Vieira coming into the side as Aaron Ramsdale, Ben White, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Thomas Partey and Martin Odegaard are rested ahead of the North London Derby next weekend.
Injuries to Gabriel Jesus and Reiss Nelson means Eddie Nketiah has to lead the line once again whilst one of Bukayo Saka or Gabriel Martinelli will need to start to maintain a goal threat and after failing to get on the scoresheet against Newcastle, this is a chance to fill their boots.
The big decision is what role Emile Smith Rowe is given at the Kassam Stadium. If he is included in the starting line-up, I’d be tempted to use him on the left-hand side of the attack – meaning a rest for Martinelli – as he was brilliant in this position last season and would be a good way to reintroduce him after such a long time out.
Deniran-Alleyne’s Arsenal XI vs Oxford United: Turner; Tomiyasu, Saliba, Gabriel, Tierney; Elneny, Vieira, Xhaka; Saka, Nketiah, Smith Rowe