It must seem like deja vu to Arsenal fans. Here they are, yet again, attempting to extinguish memories of an embarrassing defeat to Bayern Munich by thrashing minnow opposition. Arsene Wenger can’t afford to not secure an assured, comfortable win. Anything less than that and you’d assume that he’d be facing a swift exit from his managerial post. With a Lincoln victory at odds of 33/1 with some bookies, there is absolutely no pressure on the non-league side, who have never reached this stage of the competition in their history.
There might be no better time to face Arsenal this campaign. Five defeats in their last seven games is quite alarming for the Gunners, with their only victories coming against non-league Sutton United and 10-man Hull City. With the Bayern annihilation still fresh in the memory of fans and players alike, you’d expect the squad to be a tad short on confidence.
In stark contrast, Lincoln have enjoyed a fine run of form that has propelled them to the summit of the National League. The Red Imps are unbeaten since late January and have recorded seven victories in their last nine outings. On top of that, they haven’t conceded a goal in the last five matches. Their most recent game proved to be a huge morale booster – a 4-0 victory against Braintree Town.
Danny Welbeck, Alex Iwobi, and Mesut Ozil are all set to undergo late fitness tests for the home side. Whether all of them will start remains to be seen, but the likelihood is that Wenger will be more willing to play some of his big hitters in an attempt to guarantee a large margin of victory. Mohamed Elneny remains sidelined after injuring himself in the previous round.
Lincoln seem to have no fresh injury worries ahead of the match.
Arsenal line-up Lincoln line-up
Arsene Wenger is likely to start fringe players such as David Ospina, Rob Holding, and Jeff Reine-Adelaide as he has done previously in the competition, but will ensure that a majority of his line-up are first team starters in order to avoid an upset. With Sanchez likely to be rested, either Olivier Giroud of Lucas Perez will start in attack.
Lincoln won’t have much need to change the side that beat Braintree Town so easily in the league last week. Alan Power, Nathan Arnold and Matt Rhead were all dropped for the previous game, so a few of those names could be reinstated.
As much as you’d love to see Lincoln take advantage of an out-of-sorts Arsenal, you imagine that Arsene Wenger wouldn’t allow it to happen. If the score is anything less than 2-0 come the 60-minute mark, the likes of Ozil and Sanchez would most likely be invited onto the pitch to ensure a much-needed win. Don’t expect it to be an overwhelming victory, however – Lincoln are more than revved up for the encounter and can grab a cheeky goal if the Gunners aren’t careful…
Prediction: Arsenal 2-1 Lincoln City
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