Arsenal back in action
The Gunners are set to get the defence of their FA Cup title underway later this evening.
Arteta’s men will welcome Newcastle to the Emirates, for a 3rd-round tie.
The hosts head into Saturday’s action as clear favourites to advance, amid a long overdue upturn in form of late.
On the back of 7-straight outings without a Premier League win, Arsenal have since rattled off a trio of consecutive victories over the last couple of weeks, the latest of which saw them make short work of West Brom last weekend.
WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND – JANUARY 02: Kieran Tierney of Arsenal celebrates with teammates Rob Holding, Dani Ceballos and Pablo Mari after scoring their team’s first goal during the Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Arsenal at The Hawthorns on January 02, 2021 in West Bromwich, England. The match will be played without fans, behind closed doors as a Covid-19 precaution. (Photo by Rui Vieira – Pool/Getty Images)
Newcastle, on the other hand, are now winless in six, a stretch which includes four defeats, and an exit from the League Cup at the hands of Brentford.
Balogun on the way out?
Ahead of the fast approaching kick-off in north London, meanwhile, as is customary, the starting line-ups of both sides were announced a short time ago.
Mikel Arteta has made clear that he is not taking the defence of his side’s FA Cup crown lightly, opting for a strong XI, featuring the likes of Bernd Leno, Kieran Tierney and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang:
🚨 Seven changes from West Brom…
⛔️ Cedric and David Luiz start
🤝 Elneny partners Willock
⚡️ Nico, Willian, Gabi, Auba in attack#EmiratesFACup
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) January 9, 2021
As outlined above, however, it is not those to have been included in the Gunners’ matchday squad to face Newcastle who have since taken the headlines.
Instead, it is those who have been left out.
The hosts’ bench this evening does not feature any of Shkodran Mustafi, Folarin Balogun or Thomas Partey.
The latter’s absence comes with the summer addition to Arteta’s ranks still recovering from a spell on the sidelines, with Partey expected to be available next time out, when Arsenal face Crystal Palace:
Partey not in the squad. Back for next game. #AFC
— Chris Wheatley (@ChrisWheatley_) January 9, 2021
When it comes to Mustafi and Balogun, however, the situation is altogether different.
Both have been tipped for Emirates departures this month, with the former rumoured to be of interest to Serie A outfit Genoa.
Mounting reports over the last couple of days, meanwhile, have pointed towards an imminent free agent exit for highly regarded young attacker Balogun, who is said to be closing to putting pen to paper on a pre-contract with an unnamed foreign club:
No Balogun in the squad today. As @TheAthleticUK revealed earlier this week, he is close to signing a pre-contract agreement with a foreign club.
The situation explained here ⬇️https://t.co/iYdymtLSmg
— gunnerblog (@gunnerblog) January 9, 2021
As such, their respective omissions this evening are only likely to push the pair closer to the exit door in north London, with further updates on the futures of both Mustafi and Balogun no doubt set to be forthcoming over the weeks ahead.
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