Arsenal will be hoping to book their place in the FA Cup quarter-finals when they take on Portsmouth at Fratton Park on Monday.
FA Cup action resumes this week, as the fifth round of the 2019-20 edition kicks off. The first team in action in the latest round will be record 13-time winners Arsenal, as they travel to the south coast to lock horns with Portsmouth at Fratton Park on Monday night.
Portsmouth reached the fifth round of the FA Cup after beating Barnsley 4-2 in the previous stage. Currently sitting third in the League One standings, the Pompey are enjoying a decent season, having also reached the EFL Trophy final. At home, Kenny Jackett & co. have a formidable record, winning each of their last 10 games in all competitions while being unbeaten in their previous 19.
Arsenal, on the other hand, reached the latest stage of the competition after beating Bournemouth 2-1 in the fourth round. The visitors, though, continue to blow hot and cold despite showing good signs under the tutelage of Mikel Arteta. Heading into the game, the Gunners were booted out of the UEFA Europa League by Olympiacos, in what was their first defeat in 2020.
Arsenal coasted to a 4-1 win the last time they clashed with Portsmouth, back when the hosts were still in the Premier League. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the FA Cup encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Kenny Jackett does not have a lot injury issues hampering his preparations ahead of the visit of Arsenal. The Portsmouth boss, though, is sweating over the fitness of Ronan Curtis and captain Tom Naylor ahead of the FA Cup fifth round encounter on Monday.
Jackett, however, appeared to be confident when asked of the duo’s prospects to face Arsenal. Meanwhile, Christian Burgess picked up his tenth yellow card of the season in the 3-0 win over Rochdale this past weekend, but will not be suspended for the stipulated two games, considering that the suspension does not carry over to the FA Cup.
Jackett should, therefore, name a strong lineup to take on Arsenal on Monday, starting with Alex Bass in goal. In front of Bass, the Portsmouth manager should line his side up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Burgess being the leader of the defensive line.
Burgess will line up at the heart of the Portsmouth defence, with Sean Raggett expected to be his partner. Lee Brown and James Bolton will form the full-back pairing. The duo’s primary task will be to stay pinned back in order to keep a check on the Arsenal wide men, although they will look for counter-attacking opportunities as well.
Up ahead in midfield, Naylor will sit in the midfield double pivot, if passed fit, with the Portsmouth captain charged with stifling Arsenal’s creative movements. His partner in the middle will be Cameron McGeehan, who will be the midfield workhorse for Pompey.
Andy Cannon will play in an advanced midfield role and will be the chief creative threat for the hosts. Cannon will be flanked by Curtis and Ryan Williams, who will provide the width and look to send in precise passes towards John Marquis, who will lead the line against Arsenal.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Bass; Bolton, Raggett, Burgess, Brown; McGeehan, Naylor; Williams, Cannon, Curtis; Marquis
Mikel Arteta has no fresh injuries to contend with ahead of the visit to the south coast to take on Portsmouth. On Monday, the Arsenal manager will continue to be without four first-team players, with Sead Kolasinac (shoulder), Kieran Tierney (shoulder) and Cedric Soares (knee) still out, while Calum Chambers is a long-term absentee.
Indeed, defence is the only area affected by injuries, with the left-back slot, in particular, left ravaged. Bukayo Saka will, therefore, start on the left side of the Arsenal defence once again, with Arteta having no other option but to keep on playing the young Englishman.
The rest of the defensive line, though, should be shuffled, with Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Pablo Mari likely to form the central defensive partnership. Mari does appear to be set to make his Arsenal debut after making an appearance for the Arsenal under-23 side against Manchester City under-23 last week.
Like Mari, Ainsley Maitland-Niles was in action in that match and should start as the right-back, coming in for Hector Bellerin. Behind the defensive line, Emiliano Martinez ought to get a rare chance to impress between the sticks.
The midfield double pivot should have an entirely new look as well, with Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi coming in for Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos. Joe Willock ought to reprise the no. 10 role, replacing Mesut Ozil.
Nicolas Pepe and Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are due a rest and should be given a breather, with Gabriel Martinelli and Reiss Nelson likely to get a chance in their stead. Alexandre Lacazette, though, should keep his place, spearheading the attack against Portsmouth as he looks to regain his form.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Martinez; Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Mari, Saka; Guendouzi, Torreira; Nelson, Willock, Martinelli; Lacazette
- Portsmouth have not beaten Arsenal in any competition since winning a league match 5-4 in March 1958, drawing eight and losing 13 since then.
- When not a top-flight club themselves, Portsmouth have lost their last five FA Cup ties against Premier League opponents.
- Arsenal have progressed from their last 12 FA Cup ties against sides from the third tier or lower, since a 2-1 defeat to Fourth Division Wrexham in January 1992.
- Portsmouth have won each of their last 10 games in all competitions at Fratton Park and are unbeaten there in 19 since August.
- All three of Arsenal’s FA Cup goals this season have been scored by English players under the age of 21.
Player to Watch
At a time when several Arsenal players have blown hot and cold, Bukayo Saka has been a figure of consistency, showing temperament and maturity way beyond his years. The teenager has the most assists for Arsenal across all competitions this season and his creative output will hold the key for the Gunners against Portsmouth.
Set to start as a makeshift left-back once again, this will be another chance for Saka to get used to a role which he has taken to extremely well. Burdened with a lot of responsibility, Saka has been shining and will once again need to deliver the goods against Portsmouth.
Portsmouth 0-1 Arsenal
Portsmouth are formidable at home and with a largely second-string Arsenal side set to take the field at Fratton Park, they would fancy their chances. However, with several players set to take on a rather purposeful demeanour for various reasons, Arsenal seem to have the slightest of edges ahead of the game. The Hard Tackle, thus, predicts a 1-0 win for Mikel Arteta & co.