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Preston 1-2 Arsenal – FA Cup Keypoints

It would appear that the Good Ship Arsenal has hit a form-storm again.

November always brings the blues for the Gunners, but after two consecutive away defeats, losing ground in the league, grabbing a quite frankly ridiculous draw against Bournemouth – and now escaping from Preston with cup progression – it would seem the respite in December was a false dawn.

Make no mistake, just as Bournemouth should have seen out a win in our last league game, Championship side Preston North End should have put this 3rd round cup tie to bed before half time.

Callum Robinson put the home side ahead in just the seventh minute, after yet another sluggish start from the Gunners. Slack defending saw the vibrant Robinson slot home, and from there, it was pretty much one way traffic as the Deepdale crowd roared their side on.

Callum Robinson could have had a hat-trick and Ben Pearson, Hugill and McGeady all had opportunities to cause a huge cupset. A combination of poor finishing, David Ospina and the offside flag saved Arsenals blushes, and aside from a solitary chance, Arsene Wenger’s side were limping like a lame dog to the half time break.

The second half was remarkable in its contrast. It was as if Arsenal finally realised their superior quality and began to play like they should. Within seconds, they had drawn level, as Aaron Ramsey fired home from the edge of the area. From nowhere they were level.

Arsenal were well on top for the second forty five, and Preston – from ripping Arsenal open at will – did not register a single shot on target for the entire half. the away side did not want a replay, and they fought to grab the winner.

Was anyone surprised that it was Olivier Giroud that grabbed it? In the dying embers of the game, Lucas Perez had the composure and presence of mind to backheel to Giroud, who fired in via a deflection and put Arsenal into the 4th round. 

There was much more that occurred in the game, but here are the key points from this tense fixture:

Giroud loves the big occasions

Step forward Olivier. He certainly has a habit for it. Sunderland, United, Palace, Bournemouth, West Brom and now Preston are just recent examples of times Olivier Giroud has rescued us with his goals. He was pretty ineffective along with the majority of the team in the first half, but his record speaks for itself. If there are any doubters about his effectiveness, then they are ignoring cold hard fact. The stand-in captain for this game was our saviour yet again.

Lucas Perez working his way into view

If there was a bright spot in the first half, it was Lucas. His every touch was sensible, and correct. He uses the ball well, and is always on the front foot. His assist for Giroud’s winner was beautiful, and he now has six goals and five assists this season, despite featuring in fleeting glimpses. Lucas is the real deal, just imagine what he can do with a run in the side?

Welbeck is back, and he will be huge for Arsenal

His fitness has been severely hampered since joining, but when he has enjoyed a run in the side, he has offered so much. Either from the flank or centrally, Welbeck’s workrate, intelligent running and awareness will be welcome now he has returned, after he came from the bench in the 83rd minute after missing out since April. 

Sloppy starts continue to hamper

In the last match review, and I think many others, I have mentioned that our continual tendency to come out of the blocks with all the urgency of a constipated snail is a huge hindrance, and this match proved it yet again. Why oh why is it occurring? We know how we can destroy opponents in a whirlwind of passing and movement, but why do we only do it on about three or four occasions a season? It is perhaps the most frustrating element about our play. a remedy, or an answer would be great.

Maitland-Niles has a future at Arsenal

There is a reason that Ainslie Maitland-Niles has been used more than any youth team player this season. His versatility helps, but he has shown he can deal with the pressure of stepping up. He was severely tested by Preston in the first half, and he could have done better on a few occasions, but he kept his cool and was always willing to take possession. Promising signs from the youngster.

There was a lot more to write about, but the most important thing is that we have kept up our record in the FA Cup of not losing in the 3rd Round since 1996. It was close, but we scraped through. 

With our league position, the cup may just be our best bet for success this season. It’s a good thing we got through then!

We have to do better!!!!!

Preston Vs Arsenal – FA Cup Warm-Up

Arsenal travel to Deepdale to take on Preston North End in the battle of the ‘Invincibles’, for the right to progress to the Fourth Round of the FA Cup.

The match will be a welcome distraction for Gooners after recent displays in the League which have been far from what is required of title contenders. Arsenal’s last outing was the crazy 3-3  draw with Bournemouth, in which Arsenal salvaged a point with a valiant twenty minute comeback which tried to paper over a sixty minute period of play which was one of the poorest in recent memory.

Bournemouth deserved huge credit for their ability to smother Arsenal before they could formulate any sort of attack. The Cherries press strangled the Gunners, and they were well worth their 3-0 lead. 

The opponent in this game may come from the Championship, but they will not be simply making up the numbers. Simon Grayson’s team will be looking to make life difficult for their more illustrious foes and put on a show for their fans.

Arsene Wenger intimated in his press conference that changes will be made. Danny Welbeck is expected to make the bench after being absent since April, but Per Mertesacker, Santi Cazorla and Kieran Gibbs are definitely out.

Another who has been ruled out is Francis Coquelin, who injured his hamstring in the Bournemouth game in the first half and has been given a 3-4 week layoff. This leaves Arsenal’s centre a little light on numbers, with Mohamed Elneny also unable to play as he is playing for Egypt in the AFCON. The only fit options are Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also a shout. Ainslie Maitland-Niles has also played in the holding role and with so many injuries in a concentrated area, he could well be included in some form.

Arsene Wenger also confirmed that Petr Cech, Laurent Koscielny and Alexis Sanchez will be rested for the game. The assumption for their replacements would be David Ospina, Gabriel and Lucas Perez, but the first eleven is unconfirmed. Theo Walcott may also feature after recovering from his ailment. 

It is good to see so many rotations in place, especially with so many injuries to contend with. It is testament to our strong squad. It is also important we do not disrespect or underestimate Preston North End, which can only invite disaster. 

The FA Cup is still important and should be on our radar. Simon Grayson has some powerful players at his disposal, and Aiden Mcgeady is as unpredictable as a winger can be. Grayson has faced Arsenal three times as a manager, all whilst managing Leeds. He has lost two and drawn one. Perhaps the most famous was when Le King returned and created a memory that would never die.

Grayson would just be happy with a win, but so would Wenger. Cup progression is the target and the Gunners are expected to roll over Preston. With a much changed lineup, the chemistry will be affected and the fluency will be lost, at least partially. 

It will be a tough game if Arsenal get sucked into a pattern. If talent rises to the top, then Arsenal will be in the fourth round.
Predicted Lineup – Ospina, Jenkinson, Gabriel, Holding, Monreal, Xhaka, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Iwobi, Lucas, Giroud.

Predicted Scoreline – 3-1 to Arsenal