Arsenal commence their defence of the FA Cup tomorrow against the team that they beat in last season’s Final, but the side that lines up to face Hull City is likely to be vastly different to the one that featured at Wembley last May.
Arsene Wenger had hoped that Mathieu Flamini and Mesut Ozil would be back in time, but neither player trained today, with the pair joining Aaron Ramsey, Yaya Sanogo, Danny Welbeck, Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere and Abou Diaby on a rather lengthy injury list. In addition Olivier Giroud is suspended, whilst Serge Gnabry trained today but is unlikely to play a sustained part against Hull due to a lack of match practice. Lukas Podolski is in Italy finalising the terms of his loan move to Inter Milan.
In the absence of all of those players, some youngsters could be called upon tomorrow. Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Chuba Akpom have been involved with the squad in recent weeks and both players are likely to retain their places in the 18, with there also being a possibility that one or both of them could start the game. Any chances afforded to Akpom could be hugely beneficial in persuading him to sign a new contract with the club.
One certainty is that David Ospina will start in goal, with Emiliano Martinez on the bench and Wojciech Szczesny rested. All of Arsenal’s senior defenders are available, but there is a chance that Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal could be called upon, whilst Laurent Koscielny could also be rested having only recently returned from injury.
Francis Coquelin is likely to start again at the base of midfield. Joel Campbell could receive a rare start, with Theo Walcott also looking for minutes despite barely being involved following his introduction against Southampton on Thursday.
There is a possibility that further youngsters could feature, with Gedion Zelalem, Dan Crowley and Glen Kamara having all trained with the squad today. Kamara could provide vital cover in the defensive-midfield position at a time when both Flamini and Arteta are out.
It is hardly ideal for Arsenal to go into such an important game with a decimated squad, but, despite the threat that Hull are capable of posing, Wenger’s side should still have enough quality to prevail. Next week Giroud will be back available, whilst several of those out injured (particularly Flamini, Ramsey, Ozil, Welbeck and Arteta) should return to action in the near future.
Arsenal squad (from): Ospina, Martinez, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Chambers, Monreal, Coquelin, Campbell, Rosicky, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alexis, Koscielny, Debuchy, Gibbs, Walcott, Akpom, Maitland-Niles, Zelalem, Crowley, Kamara, Gnabry.