After months of relative predictability, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta will have at least one major decision to make for his side’s FA Cup fourth round fixture against Manchester City.
The Gunners head to the Etihad Stadium on the back of victories over Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United in the past fortnight to ensure their five-point lead at the top of the Premier League table remains intact and a win on Friday night would complete an almost perfect month in terms of results.
Now, for the FA Cup third-round tie against Oxford United, Mikel Arteta rotated his squad heavily as the likes of Matt Turner, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Rob Holding, Albert Sambi Lokonga and Fabio Vieira all started a competitive fixture for the first time since the season resumed after the World Cup break.
And as tonight’s meeting is a cup tie, it will be intriguing to see how Arsenal line-up against City as there are cases to go as strong as possible or to give those aforementioned fringe players as well as Emile Smith Rowe some game time as they need to be sharp for the second half of the season.
One player in contention to start is Jakub Kiwior. The Poland international’s £21m move from Spezia was officially announced on Monday evening, thus becoming the club’s second signing of the January transfer window and increasing the depth in the defensive department.
“Jakub Kiwior has joined us from Spezia Calcio on a long-term contract,” a statement read via the club’s official website. “Jakub will wear the number 15 shirt and will immediately join up for training with his new teammates. Everyone at Arsenal welcomes Jakub to the club.”
Furthermore, Kiwior’s arrival means Arsenal now have 26 senior players listed and the majority are available for selection against Man City after Arteta, during his pre-match press conference on Wednesday afternoon, revealed there were no fresh injuries to report following last weekend’s 3-2 win over Man United.
Despite facing Pep Guardiola’s side in an FA Cup tie under the lights at the Etihad Stadium, the rules regarding the matchday squad are the same as if it was a Premier League fixture; a starting 11 plus nine substitutes. As a result, there are six first-team stars Mikel Arteta must leave back in London.
Of course, with Gabriel Jesus, Reiss Nelson and Mohamed Elneny sidelined through injury, half of the absentees are already confirmed whilst Cedric Soares – who hasn’t made a matchday squad since last month’s 4-2 win over Brighton & Hove Albion – is unlikely to travel due to putting the finishing touches on his loan move to Fulham.
One of Turner, Aaron Ramsdale or Karl Hein will miss out too as it’s rare that three goalkeepers are named on the bench for a domestic fixture. Interestingly, the Gunners’ number one was the odd man out for the Oxford game earlier in the month so it will be interesting to see what decision is made.
Lastly, if Arteta is planning to name Kiwior in the travelling party then the defender is guaranteed to replace one member from Arsenal’s matchday squad against Man United – whether that be at the expense of another defensive-minded player or an attacker remains to be seen.