Mikel Arteta has made seven changes to the Arsenal side that started the comfortable win over Newcastle on Monday ahead of this afternoon’s FA Cup tie against Southampton.
The backline sees the least changes of all, Bernd Leno remains between the sticks with yesterday’s loan signing from Brighton, Mat Ryan, one of two goalkeepers on the bench for the Gunners.
There’s two changes to the defensive line with Gabriel Magalhaes returning to action for the first time after a bout with Covid-19 in the place of David Luiz.
Cedric maintains a spot in the starting lineup against his former club, with Hector Bellerin handing Kieran Tierney a much-needed rest by seemingly shifting across to left-back.
Cedric has experience of playing on the opposite flank owing to his loan with Inter Milan, but it’s unclear which of the Portuguese ace or Bellerin will take up the spot on the left flank.
The personnel suggest that Arteta is sticking with a 4-2-3-1 formation as Granit Xhaka is the only midfielder or attacker to remain in the starting lineup.
Xhaka is partnered in the middle of the park by Mohamed Elneny, with out-of-form Willian taking up the No.10 role and thus the role of the side’s primary creator.
Club-record signing Nicolas Pepe and exciting youngster Gabriel Martinelli are on the wings, with academy graduate Eddie Nketiah leading the line.
Take a look at the Gunners’ lineup below:
? Today’s team news…
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) January 23, 2021
Here’s how some of the Arsenal faithful have reacted to the teamsheet:
Mental. What’s the point. Should given it a kid to give him match day experience. Not going to use them either way
— Lloyd (@luluark) January 23, 2021
No, whats the point in two gks on the bench? There’s other players other than nelson that could be there
— Bubbles (@CalebSt67612829) January 23, 2021
Weve taken 3 keepers to Southampton and not balogun who was stuck in the u23s yesterday, no wonder hes going to leave…
— Daniel Weitzmann (@danweitzmann_) January 23, 2021
Two keepers on the bench? What’s the point
— max (@MaximusArsenal) January 23, 2021
It doesn’t look good for Reiss Nelson does it. Unless injured. Two GK’s on bench. Eddie/Willian/Pepe all have to take there chances this afternoon.
— AFC GLEN (@AFC_GLEN) January 23, 2021
2 keepers on the bench????
— Chiddy ?? (@chiddyafc) January 23, 2021
Willian shouldn’t play even in a friendly match ?
— Future Ex (@bryoshavin) January 23, 2021
It’s not surprising to see such considerable rotation from the Gunners, with their reignited form in the Premier League certainly the focus – key players have been handed a rest this afternoon.
It could form the recipe for a disaster though as Southampton have not tinkered with their side nearly as much, suggesting that Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men could be in line to make an upset today.
There’s other reasons why the Saints can field a strong side as well, the coastal outfit had the chance to rest their key stars midweek when they played their FA Cup tie against Shrewsbury that was postponed due to Covid-19 instead of being challenged in the Premier League.
Whilst the uproar towards the decision to take three goalkeepers in Bernd Leno, Runar Alex Runarsson and Ryan to Southampton is understandable, it may have been slightly necessary if new signing Ryan – who hasn’t played since mid-December – isn’t fully fit as of yet.
The last-minute personal matter of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could’ve also impacted this.