It’s been a topsy-turvy festive period for Arsenal with familiar failings coming to the fore again. On Tuesday night, we were poor and had to come back from 3 goals down to draw 3-3 at Bournemouth. Should a team fighting for the ultimate price be losing 0-3 to Bournemouth at any point in a game? I don’t think so.

That said, there is a welcome distraction of the FA Cup to contend with this weekend as a trip to Preston awaits.

MATCH STATS

  • This will be the first FA Cup meeting between the sides since January 1999, when Arsenal triumphed 4-2 at Deepdale in the third round.
  • In three previous FA Cup meetings at Deepdale, there have been 15 goals between these sides (seven for Preston, eight for Arsenal) at an average of five per game.
  • The Lilywhites have won one of their past 15 FA Cup games against top-flight opposition, their solitary win a 4-1 away hammering of Derby in January 2008.
  • The Gunners have a near imperious recent record against lower league opposition in the FA Cup, losing just one of their last 36 ties (1-0 v Blackburn in February 2013).
  • Preston manager Simon Grayson has met Arsenal three times previously in the FA Cup, all while Leeds boss (D1, L2).
  • Theo Walcott has had a hand in three goals in his past two FA Cup appearances (two goals and one assist).
  • Alexis Sanchez has scored five goals and assisted four in nine FA Cup outings for Arsenal, with each goal involvement coming either at the Emirates or Wembley Stadium.

(Stats Courtesy of BBC)

TEAM NEWS

Preston boss Simon Grayson has a full squad to pick from apart from Calum Woods (knee) and John Welsh (calf).

The Lilywhites sit 11th in the Championship, 12 points clear of the relegation zone, but Grayson could still shuffle his pack with the likes of Paul Gallagher and Aiden McGeady potentially coming back into contention.

We lost Francis Coquelin to a hamstring injury at Bournemouth but Danny Welbeck has returned to training and could be involved. Lucas Perez is a doubt with an ankle problem. Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil are also doubts with muscular injuries and illness respectively. Kieran Gibbs and Per Mertesacker are out due to knee injuries and Mohamed Elneny has joined up with Egypt for the African Nations Cup. Santi Cazorla and Mathieu Debuchy remain long term absentees.

POSSIBLE LINE UP:  The FA Cup is a competition we have won 2 times in the last 3 years and it is a well coveted trophy by all teams in England. I expect Wenger to rest some players like Laurent Koscielny (Fatigue) and Alexis Sanchez. David Ospina should start in goal with Gabriel Paulista, Rob Holding, Shkodran Mustafi and Nacho Monreal in Defence. With an acute shortage in central midfield due to injuries and non-availability, Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey will play alongside either Mesut Ozil (if fit) or Alex Iwobi at the number 10 role. Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain and Olivier Giroud will start upfront alongside either Alex Iwobi on the wings (If Ozil is fit) or Reine-Adelaide.

PREDICTION: An FA Cup match is always a potential banana skin for any top side irrespective of the opposition and we have to seize the initiative so we can control the game. Olivier Giroud is in good form and should be a huge threat to Preston. Preston have experienced players like Aiden McGeady and Paul Gallagher in attack and our defending have to be spotless. I won’t read much into this game but I expect us to win 3-0 but it could be harder

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