Arsenal vs Liverpool – FA Cup 3rd Round Preview
Introduction to the FA Cup 3rd Round
The 3rd round of the FA Cup, represents the opening stage for Premier League clubs to enter the historic domestic cup competition, with all other teams throughout every step of the footballing pyramid, having already scrambled to get to this point. Manchester City defeated their neighbourhood rivals, United, in the final of last year’s competition, with an unspectacular 2-1 victory. Pep Guardiola will be hoping to garner as much glory as possible over the next year or so, before the hammer falls and sanctions are imposed on the Etihad group, therefore, will be early favourites to defend this piece of silverware.
The Liverpool Challenge
For Liverpool to have been drawn against an elite team at this stage of the Cup is unfortunate, whilst also being away from home just adds to the difficulty of the tie. These two giants of the game are set for a season long battle with the reigning Premier League champions (also Manchester City), for the 2023/24 English League title, yet can perhaps sideline that struggle for a day, to concentrate on this standalone contest.
Arsenal currently sits fourth in the Premier League, five points behind the Anfield giants. Mikel Arteta will be looking for a bounce back performance, after his tired array of players struggled during the festive and New Year’s period. The gunners are 14-time winners of the FA Cup, with their last competition victory coming in the 2019/20 season. That piece of silverware represents the only real thing that Arteta has won, despite the vast amounts of monies that have been spent since.
So, in a Premier League calendar year where Arsenal were supposedly great and Liverpool were below par, they have ended up finishing 2023 like this:
Arsenal – 81 points from 42 games
Liverpool – 81 points from 41 games
There are levels to this…
— Henry Jackson (@HenryJackson87) December 31, 2023
In terms of availability, Fabio Vieira, Thomas Partey, Oleksandr Zinchenko, and Jurrien Timber, are all out, whereas Mohamed Elneny has now joined up with Egypt, for international duty at the 2024 AFCON.
The north London outfit would have had a full week’s rest since their 2-1 loss at Fulham (before Sundays kick off), whereas nearly two weeks recovery time will be in effect after the visit of Liverpool. Mikel Arteta will go close to full strength for this game, with the only consideration being who starts in goal. David Raya is the Premier and Champions League keeper of choice this year, therefore, I suspect Aaron Ramsdale will take on FA Cup duties. Prior to that loss at Craven Cottage, a second defeat was recorded, as visiting West Ham overcame their London rivals, 0-2. The 1-1 draw with Liverpool came before that, after their trip to Merseyside failed to separate the two title challengers.
A predicted line up for the Gunners’ team:
GK – Aaron Ramsdale
RB – Ben White
RCB – William Saliba
LCB – Gabriel Magalhães
LB – Takehiro Tomiyasu
RCM – Martin Ødegaard (c)
CDM – Declan Rice
LCM – Kai Havertz
RW – Bukayo Saka
CF – Gabriel Jesus
LW – Gabriel Martinelli
In a 4-3-3 system of play, the home side will surely look to outmanoeuvre and outplay their more physical opponents. Possession will be key to Mikel Arteta, as he will want to draw out the visiting team, before launching well timed attacks from wide.
The Premier League leaders are the eight-time winners of the FA Cup, who last won the fabled competition in the 2021/22 season. Following that 1-1 draw against Arsenal (just prior to Christmas), the reds won 0-2 at Burnley, before their New Years Day encounter with Newcastle at Anfield, which ended 4-2 to Liverpool. Jürgen Klopp and his men will be welcoming Fulham to their ground next Wednesday evening, in the first leg of their EFL Cup semifinal. Given this and the strong possibility that the reds could make that respective final, I foresee some solid rotation for this FA Cup tie, juts three days before.
In terms of those available, the Spanish pair of Thiago Alcântara and Stefan Bajčetić remain sidelined until late January, as Andy Robertson looks likely for a return in February. Joël Matip appears to have played his last game for the club, after sustaining an ACL injury last year. Dominik Szoboszlai is out for an undisclosed period, as he sustained a hamstring injury against the Toon, something that has not been fully diagnosed yet. Kostas Tsimikas may be out for the season with a shoulder injury, whereas both Wataru Endō and Mohamed Salah have departed for their Asia Cup and AFCON commitments.
Below is the expected line up, as more changes will be expected given to such a quick turnaround in upcoming games.
GK – Caoimhín Kelleher
RB – Joe Gomez
LB – Luke Chambers
RCB – Jarell Quansah
LCB – Virgil van Dijk
RCM – Ryan Gravenberch
CDM – Alexis Mac Allister (45 mins)
LCM – Curtis Jones
RF – Harvey Elliott
CF – Diogo Jota
LF – Cody Gakpo
In a 4-3-3 system, the reds German manager may look to shuffle the pack and introduce premeditated substitutions to ensure a level of freshness. An ability to go full strength is negated by those unavailable, which should lead to careful consideration of loads amongst a gegenpressing enterprise.
How Will This Contest Play Out
I believe the home side will win this game, given the absolute certainty that their more elite level players will not be needed for a week afterwards. The home advantage will be key to overcoming a rowdy travelling support.
The reds may come into this game as the more relaxed group, in the knowledge that a good December has seen them secure top spot in the Premier League. The mindset and confidence of the visitors will make for a very interesting matchup, which could see a titanic cup battle unfold.
Player to Watch – Harvey Elliott
Arsenal 3 – 2 Liverpool