Arsenal responded to last weekend’s disappointment with a much-needed win over Leicester City on Tuesday night.
The performance itself left a lot to be desired, but Arsène Wenger and his side will have been delighted to have all three points to banish memories of the North London derby as quickly as possible.
A slightly shaky performance that probably should have been expected after a setback, and all things considered the points were the all important thing.
In the very same nature, this weekend’s game is simply about winning. That is the odd nature of cup ties – performances are irrelevant, the result is all that matters.
A good one here would see the current FA Cup holders just one game from a return Wembley.
Arsenal Team News
The midweek injury suffered by Aaron Ramsey (hamstring) will see him out for at least two weeks, but Alexis Sánchez (knee) is only a doubt. Jack Wilshere is close to a return.
Wenger said he is “motivated and focused to come back as quick as possible.”
Wojciech Szczęsny will return in goal and – while Middlesbrough won’t be underestimated – more rotation is likely.
Possible XI: Szczęsny; Chambers, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Gibbs; Coquelin; Walcott, Flamini, Cazorla, Özil; Giroud.
Complacency should be far from our minds with Middlesbrough as the visitors this weekend.
A win (with a clean sheet) at Manchester City in the 4th round underlined the credentials of a team currently sitting pretty at the top of the Championship.
Hardly the huge underdogs that spring to mind when we line up against ‘lower league’ opposition.
Five league wins in a row have taken them to the top of the Championship, having conceded just 20 goals in 30 games this season.
In all competitions they have only lost two of their last 24. This will not be easy.
What makes them more dangerous is the approach they will probably have.
Aitor Karanka worked as José Mourinho’s assistant at Real Madrid and it would be no surprise for the former Real Madrid and Athletic Club defender to adopt a conservative approach at The Emirates.
Middlesbrough have a fantastic defensive record this season, and will look to sting us on the break with the talents of Kike and Patrick Bamford.
Organised and patient, waiting for our mistakes, it’s fair to expect the Teeside club to give us a good test on Sunday afternoon. In their current form, and after the win at Manchester City, they’ll believe they can shock us.
Key defender Daniel Ayala will be out, and replaced by either Jonathan Woodgate or Chelsea loanee Kenneth Omeruo.
Possible XI: Mejias; Fredericks, Gibson, Omeruo, Friend; Bamford, Clayton, Leadbitter, Adomah; Tomlin; Kike.
Up for the Cup
The win in midweek has hopefully cleared our minds and a more fluid and confident performance would be great on Sunday just before a key run. The Champions League returns soon and we really now have to be consistent to make the top four again.
We have more than enough quality.
The form of Mesut Özil has been superb since returning and – despite adding little else – Theo Walcott is back amongst he goals with regularity.
Gabriel’s debut could be interesting, it’s key to fit him in just in case something happens to Laurent Koscielny. I would expect Wenger to rotate the rest of the defence but maybe it would be good for the new signing to have Spanish speakers Nacho Monreal and Héctor Bellerín with him.
A fast start would again be wonderful.
Middlesbrough will set up to frustrate and probably grow into the game as it goes on. Concede first and it could be a long and infuriating afternoon in London.
Other teams have already gone out to lesser opposition, that’s our warning. Of the ‘big’ sides only Liverpool and Manchester United remain in the competition.
Another win on Sunday and The Arsenal are well on their way to retaining it.