How Arsenal Will Line Up Agaisnt Liverpool in the FA Cup

Charlie MelmanCorrespondent IIFebruary 14, 2014

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 08:  Raheem Sterling of Liverpool is challenged by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain of Arsenal during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield on February 8, 2014 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Arsenal have the chance to avenge their humiliating 5-1 capitulation to Liverpool with an FA Cup tie against the Reds at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

The Premier League table is extremely tight, so the cup is probably Arsenal's best chance of breaking their nine-year silverware drought and lifting the spirits of the club with a tangible success.

Yet this round's draw could not have gone much worse for Arsenal. Though they do not have to face Chelsea or Manchester City, who square off against each other on Saturday, Sheffield Wednesday, Sheffield United or Charlton would certainly have been preferable.

But Gunners manager Arsene Wenger knows that complaining and ruing is useless and his side must take care of Liverpool in front of a crowd that has not seen the club win for two successive games. They know what's at stake and they know that Liverpool will not take it easy after emasculating the Gunners a week ago.

Arsenal's short-term misfortune is not being able to rest many players against a side that has equal ambitions and will likely use all its best players. But the Gunners' next match is against Bayern Munich, so Wenger will have to use his resources wisely.

Here's a look at how he might set up his starting XI, with a few interesting notes.


Wenger only has one realistic change he can make at the back: Nacho Monreal for Kieran Gibbs. Thomas Vermaelen is injured, and Carl Jenkinson is almost certainly not getting minutes in a match like this.

While Gibbs does not deserve to be demoted on merit, it would be wise to keep him fresh before he is run ragged by Bayern's endlessly deep and world-class attack.

This is the only defensive position in which the manager can rotate and feel relatively secure, so he should do so.

Immediately in front of the defense, Mathieu Flamini returns from suspension, and it would be a massive mistake to not start him.

Not only is he the freshest player in the squad after missing Arsenal's last three matches, he is a much better option that Mikel Arteta. Whereas the latter is slow and dawdles on the ball, Flamini is hyperactive and provides the defensive tenacity that Arteta sorely lacks.

He will not allow the back line to become as discombobulated as it was last weekend and will work to counter the threat of Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson. Arsenal have really missed him.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 08:  Per Mertesacker of Arsenal competes with Luis Suarez of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield on February 8, 2014 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Gett
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Santi Cazorla's fitness is questionable, as he recently contracted an illness that Arsene Wenger said at his pre-match press conference might rule him out. Even if it does not, expect the Spaniard to be given a place on the bench and Tomas Rosicky to start in his place.

Rosicky is another player whose tireless work rate and devotion to the success of the team would have at least mitigated last weekend's disaster. If only to provide psychological insurance, Wenger would be wise to include as many of those sorts of players as possible.

And rather than slotting Rosicky into the left-wing slot, the manager should allow him to roam freely in midfield and put the forsaken Lukas Podolski on the left.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 08:  Daniel Sturridge of Liverpool is challenged by Laurent Koscielny and Jack Wilshere of Arsenal during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield on February 8, 2014 in Liverpool, England.
Michael Regan/Getty Images

The German is certainly fresh after being benched in almost every game he has been fit to play in this year. As has been stated many times, he provides Arsenal with the directness and sheer power that can be a wild card in a high-profile and likely even game.

While Wenger would surely like to rest Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud ahead of the Bayern clash, he has no choice.

Cazorla's absence precludes Ozil from getting a breather and, as we all know, the Gunners have no suitable backup for Giroud.

If the two can link up more effectively than they have in recent matches, Arsenal's attack, which has scored one goal in its last three games, will be much more successful.