The FA Cup, the oldest competition in British football, returns to our screens in the New Year and all of the Premier League teams will be in action. Current holders, Manchester United, will take on Championship side Reading, with their own former player Jaap Stam at the helm. Mourinho’s former side, Chelsea await the outcome from the Notts County vs. Peterborough United replay, Liverpool also await a replay in the form of Plymouth Argyle and Newport County.
Meanwhile, Arsenal, the joint record holders for most FA Cup wins, look set to add to their 12 wins this season, especially in what is rumoured to be Wenger’s final season.
Preston North End
It’s been a mixed season thus far for Preston. Simon Grayson’s side suffered defeat in six of their first eight games. They currently find themselves in 14th place in the Championship, and have already crashed out of the EFL Cup following a 6-0 defeat at Newcastle. With a league victory highly unlikely, the FA Cup remains their only (albeit slim) chance of winning any silverware this season. There has also been controversy off the pitch with Preston starting their new sponsorship deal with 888sport. Pressure from Preston fans has seen 888sport agree to remove their trademark tangerine colour from Deepdale. The general consensus was that the tangerine colour was too similar to the colour of Blackpool, fierce rivals of Preston.
It has been a very strong season for the Gunners. An opening day loss against Liverpool looks like little more than a hiccup as they have been unbeaten in the 13 subsequent league games. Along the way they have enjoyed a 3-0 win over Chelsea, and 5-1 over West Ham in their new ground. They are also unbeaten in the Champions League with four wins and two draws, allowing them to finish at the top of their group for the first time in four years. Despite their good form, Arsenal crashed out of the EFL following a fifth round defeat to Southampton.
On paper, Arsenal should win this one fairly easily. However, they have already suffered having underestimated Southampton, and will be keen to avoid making the same mistake twice this season. Alexis Sánchez has been Arsenal’s best player this season with 13 goals in 20 appearances. He has looked like a new player where he has started most of his matches up top as the striker, as opposed to his regular wide position. Theo Walcott, now a veteran of the Arsenal team now in his 12th season, has been playing some of his best football and has scored 6 goals from his 17 appearances. If both Sanchez and Walcott play against Preston, then Gunners fans should be rest assured of a win at the Deepdale and progression into the fourth round.