After a frustrating goalless draw at the weekend, it’s Cup competition time once more for Arsène Wenger’s side.
Managed by Jaap Stam, the Royals are currently 8th in England’s second tier and only a point from the promotion places with 14 games played. They’ll relish this cup tie and given our history in previous meetings with them, be eager to banish Arsenal’s 100% win record.
Arsène revealed plenty of pre-match team news when asked in his press conference, as well as providing updates on the fitness of a few first-team players.
Santi Cazorla (achilles) is unavailable, whilst the match comes too soon for the Spaniard’s midfield counterpart Aaron Ramsey, although he is back in full training with the rest of the squad now. Olivier Giroud (toe) should feature at some stage but isn’t expected to play the full 90 minutes, whilst there are no fresh injury issues after the draw on Saturday afternoon.
“It will be a similar squad to [the one] against Nottingham Forest,” Wenger said.
“We will have Gabriel, Holding, Jenkinson will be back and will play. Jeff Reine-Adelaide will play, otherwise I think Iwobi, Lucas, Oxlade-Chamberlain will also play. Gibbs – who captained the team at Forest – will do it again on Tuesday.”
Goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, third-choice in the senior side, is expected to start once more after keeping a clean sheet against Forest in the previous round.
Lucas Perez could potentially start up-top as a lone striker, with Iwobi and Oxlade-Chamberlain operating on either wing. Reine-Adélaïde will most probably play just behind the striker, whilst younger players such as Chris Willock and Gedion Zelalem are likely to feature from the substitutes’ bench.
Predicted XI (4-2-3-1): Martinez; Jenkinson, Gabriel, Holding, Gibbs; Maitland-Niles, Coquelin; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Iwobi, Reine-Adelaide; Perez.
Reading warmed themselves up for a trip to north London with a slender 1-0 win against Rotherham United, courtesy of a late winner from substitute Paul McShane with four minutes remaining.
Having beaten Plymouth Argyle, MK Dons (penalties) and Brighton & Hove Albion to reach the fourth round, they’ll be quietly confident that they can get a positive result – if not a win – from the game, against a less than full strength Arsenal side in truth.
Chris Gunter (suspension) is the only first-team player unavailable for selection, meaning academy right-back Tennai Watson would potentially slot into the Royal’s backline.
Jaap Stam has publicly hinted about the possibility that he also will make alterations to the starting line-up, saying, “Everybody wants to be involved in these games. But you’ve got to be realistic, we’ve got a lot of league games as well. So we will make a couple of changes again.”
Predicted XI (4-3-3): Al Habsi; Obita, Blackett, Moore, Watson; Williams, Swift, Quinn; Mendes, McCleary, Kermorgant.