Unai Emery embarks on his first FA Cup campaign as Arsenal take on Blackpool, with the manager set to give chances to some of his fringe players.
Arsenal begin their FA Cup journey and take on Blackpool at Bloomfield Road on Saturday. The Gunners have already faced the League One outfit earlier this season in the Carabao Cup, beating the minnows 2-1. The FA Cup, however, holds more motivation and challenge, especially away from home, but Unai Emery will be eager to start off on a winning note.
The Arsenal boss could use the tie to give some of his overworked squad members a breather by resting some of the regulars and placing the others on the bench. These players include Lucas Torreira, Granit Xhaka, Sead Kolasinac and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, while Alexandre Lacazette and Alex Iwobi are among those who could be called upon.
When Emery was quizzed about his team selection during his pre-match press conference, he said that he would like to name a competitive time while also hinting that some of the players could be given a much needed rest.
“I want to take a team with the players being competitive. The team for Saturday is the same, maybe we can share with some players who are playing less or some young players, but thinking above all of finding a big performance there with our players. This is our idea at the beginning.”
That said, Emery could use some of the young players and fringe stars who have featured regularly in the Europa League as well as the League Cup. These include the likes of Bukayo Saka, Joe Willock, Eddie Nketiah, Carl Jenkinson and Mohamed Elneny.
However, it could be the case that Emery only uses a handful of his young stars from the get-go and begins the game with the more experienced stars on the pitch. Cech is one of these experienced stars, with the veteran goalkeeper set to be deployed between the posts, despite Emiliano Martinez starting Arsenal’s last Europa League game.
At right-back, Carl Jenkinson will be given a rare start, replacing Ainsley Maitland-Niles. On the opposite flank, with Kolasinac likely to be rested, veteran full-back Stephan Lichtsteiner could start. Arsenal still have their share of defensive issues, with players like Shkodran Mustafi, Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal either recovering from their injuries or not fully fit.
Konstantinos Mavropanos has returned to training this week, but he might be short of match fitness. The lack of central defenders could see Emery tasking Laurent Koscielny and Sokratis Papastathopoulos to take charge of an experienced central defensive partnership.
In midfield, Emery is set to start the game with Mohamed Elneny and Matteo Guendouzi, although the Arsenal boss also has options in Willock and Maitland-Niles. Bukayo Saka is set to get another start after featuring in the Europa League this season, and the youngster could start on the left side of the Arsenal attack against Blackpool.
Alex Iwobi could continue his run in the team, featuring on the right flank. Aaron Ramsey will be the chief creator for Arsenal, with Eddie Nketiah set for a central striker role and a chance to impress Emery further.