Oxford Utd, a club whose ground still has part of its stadium missing. A club which pre Christmas, held Sheffield Wednesday to a draw away from home. On Saturday, Sheffield Wednesday dumped Newcastle Utd out of the FA Cup. Means little I know but that’s the joy of the FA Cup, it can spring a surprise.
Oxford’s most recent defeat of Arsenal dates back to 1985-86. Relegation from the old first division loomed large that season with only a win on the final day able to save them. They got the three points.
Oxford’s good fortunes didn’t last long though as within a few years, they were playing non league football. Both Graham Rix and Brian Talbot have a some stage, managed Oxford Utd but neither enjoyed success. Right now, the club is playing League One football and sit 8th in the table. Their kit is yellow and blue, perfect on a night when Arsenal players will be in all white as part of the club’s ‘No More Red’ campaign.
There has been a lot of negativity thrown Arsenal’s way since the Newcastle Utd game. Mikel Arteta has been heavily criticised for his touch line behaviour, the players to for theirs but you know what, it doesn’t matter. It’s called passion and it’s nothing football hasn’t seen before from other clubs players and managers. Arsenal can never win though because one day the players are deemed to lack passion, another they over celebrate a win and then now, they have too much passion. Bonkers!
Oxford v Arsenal is very likely to bring a lot of changes, certainly for the latter. Of course we’d all love to see Martin Odegaard lifting the trophy for the first time in May but in my opinion, this is a golden opportunity to give those who don’t usually start a game, some playing time. Fabio Vieira, Marquinhos, Sambi Lokonga, Mo Elneny, Rob Holding and Matt Turner. Takehiro Tomiyasu and Kieran Tierney could start with Emile Smith Rowe expected to make his much awaited return too, albeit probably from the bench. Having been on the bench for the Newcastle game, Nathan Butler-Oyedeji could very well be involved too. Perhaps Miguel Azeez too as he’s returned to Arsenal having been called back from his loan with Ibiza.
With the under 21’s playing yesterday, a thumping by Man City by the way, Mikel Arteta’s options, certainly for the substitutes, are somewhat limited so it’s likely we’ll see a strong bench. Hopefully though, there’ll be no William Saliba and Bukayo Saka on it as both will miss the Tottenham fixture if they pick up a booking in tomorrow’s match.
This is how we lined up in our League Cup defeat to Brighton.
I think we’ll see a similar starting eleven but with Matt Turner and Takehiro Tomiyasu replacing Karl Hein and Cedric Soares respectively. With Eddie Nketiah as our only out and our striker then I guess he’ll start. Unless Mikel Arteta either throws Nathan Butler-Oyedeji in at the deep end. I say deep end but we have players his age, 20, out on loan playing football on a regular basis at a similar level or higher than League One.
As said before, Mikel Arteta has a deep squad as far as the numbers go but as far as strength goes, he lacking options both in attack and in midfield. The gulf between Thomas Partey and those who step in for him is big. Same with Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli although having ESR back will change that somewhat. Marquinhos is still a relatively unknown quantity who needs game time. All those who could be called upon at any time if injuries hit the squad, need playing time and in my opinion, this is the best time to get it.
I don’t ever expect an Arsenal team to just turn up and roll over a team which plays their football two leagues below, but let’s be honest, if a second string group of players can’t perform against Oxford tonight then one would have to wonder what some of them are doing at Arsenal.
Manchester City at The Etihad await the winners of tonight’s fixture.
Catch up in the comments.