Emirates Stadium, London
Saturday 9th January 2016, 1500 GMT
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Arsenal FC became the most successful team in FA Cup history last season after winning the competition for the 12th time, and the Gunners will be looking to begin the defence of their crown on the right note against Sunderland AFC on Saturday
The FA Cup has a special place in Arsenal FC’s storied history, and indeed in Arsène Wenger’s career, with the Frenchman winning the competition six times — a record he shares with former Aston Villa manager George Ramsey.
The competition has been particularly significant for the Gunners over the past two seasons given it was the first trophy the North London side won since 2005, as also the fact that the cup wins could act as springboards for potential success in bigger competitions in the future.
Wenger’s side have been handed a potentially tricky draw in the third round against Sunderland at the Emirates, and the Black Cats will be looking to take advantage of any complacency from the home side.
Team news and Tactics
Wenger will still be without several of his first-team players, including Alexis Sánchez and Francis Coquelin, but has no fresh injury worries since last weekend’s game against Newcastle United. Captain Mikel Arteta is fit again and could be handed a start, while youngsters Alex Iwobi and Jeff Reine-Adelaide may also be given a few minutes to impress against Premier League opposition.
The Gunners are unlikely to deviate from their 4-2-3-1 formation, and with Wenger insisting that he will not make many changes despite their game against Liverpool FC in midweek, a similar line-up to the one that scraped past the Magpies is expected. David Ospina is expected to be between the sticks, while the likes of Calum Chambers, Joel Campbell, Gabriel Paulista and Keiran Gibbs will also get minutes on the pitch.
Arsenal FC will enjoy most of the possession throughout the game, but will have to take their chances when they arrive. Sam Allardyce’s men have been very poor defensively this season, but will no doubt set out to frustrate the home side by packing the midfield, sitting deep in their own half, and looking to capitalise on the break through the likes of Fabio Borini, Duncan Watmore and Jermain Defore, among others.
If Mesut Özil starts, as he is expected to, the Gunners’ playmaker will once again be key to their attacking play, and the likes of Theo Walcott, Campbell and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could cause serious problems for Sunderland with their fast running in behind the defence or in the channels, jeopardising the Black Cats’ ability to maintain their defensive structure.
Possible starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Ospina; Debuchy, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Gibbs; Arteta (C), Flamini; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Özil, Campbell; Walcott
Despite a brief run of good results, Sam Allardyce’s Sunderland have failed to maintain their level and have fallen away once again — the Black Cats heavily tipped to drop down to the Championship at the end of the season.
Sunderland will continue to be without the influential Sebastian Larsson and Jack Rodwell, while former Tottenham Hotspur centre-back Younes Kaboul will also not be able to recover in time to face his former side’s fiercest rivals.
21-year-old English youngster Jordan Pickford is expected to start in goal for the Black Cats, while the overall strength of Saturday’s team will largely be dependent on how important Allardyce believes the competition is. Sunderland could well play their best side at the Emirates and still lose, and Premier League survival is undoubtedly the biggest aim for the remainder of this season.
Nonetheless, the away side are expected to begin the game in a 4-3-3 formation, with Borini, Defoe and Watmore likely to be charged with pressing the Gunners’ defenders and midfielders when they are in possession, while also creating chances on the counter-attack. A work-horse midfield three of Yann M’Vila, Lee Cattermole and Jordi Gómez could be fielded with a view towards keeping the Arsenal FC attacking midfielders at bay.
Possible starting line-up (4-3-3): Pickford; Yedlin, O’Shea (C), Brown, Van Aanholt; M’Vila, Cattermole, Gómez; Watmore, Defoe, Borini
- Arsenal FC are attempting to become the first side to win the FA Cup three seasons in a row since Blackburn Rovers achieved the feat in 1886
- Sunderland have only one win in their last seven meetings in all competitions against Arsenal FC
- Arsenal FC have won six of their last seven games in all competitions, while the visitors recently ended a 5-game losing streak by beating Aston Villa last weekend
- Sunderland have conceded 16 goals in their last five away games
- Arsenal FC have won 8 of their last 9 home fixtures in all competitions heading into Saturday’s game
Player to watch
David Ospina (Arsenal FC)
Although he might not be the most glamorous (or the most talented) player involved in this game, the Colombian has had to play second fiddle to Petr Čech this season, watching from the sidelines as fans and pundits alike have heaped praise on the former Chelsea FC No 1.
Ospina’s involvement in the early Champions League fixtures did not end too well for either him or the team, and he must now make sure that he focuses and plays to the best of his ability to earn the opportunity to continue playing in this competition for the rest of the campaign.
Arsenal FC 2 – 0 Sunderland AFC
The Gunners will take this competition seriously, and Wenger will put out a team strong enough to comfortably get the better of any side Sam Allardyce names for Saturday. The home side have been in great form of late, and should have enough creativity and attacking nous to get the goals they need to cruise to a win.
Blast from the past