Eddie Nketiah produced a fine close range finish to kill Portsmouth off in our 2-0 away win in the FA Cup fifth round on Monday night.
The victory sets up a tie with either Sheffield United or Reading in the quarter-finals, taking place on Saturday 21 or Sunday 22 March.
Mikel Arteta rotated a number of players from our Europa League elimination against Olympiacos last Thursday. This included Reiss Nelson impressing down the right wing, Pablo Mari having a solid debut at centre-back, Gabriel Martinelli getting another start down the left wing and Joe Willock at number 10. The latter failed to impress though.
We’re on a good run of form domestically of late but we may still fall short of the Champions League places after a horrid start to the season under Unai Emery. We head into this weekend’s fixture at home to West Ham United down in 10th place and eight points behind Chelsea in fourth.
However, Manchester City’s potential two-year ban from Champions League action could open up fifth place as the final spot for next season’s competition. We are five points behind Manchester United who are currently sitting in this position.
Both aforementioned sides face tricky matches on Sunday – Chelsea at home to Everton and Manchester United at home to rivals Manchester City. Tottenham are away to Burnley on Saturday evening. It’s possible that all three of these teams above us drop points, meaning we cannot afford to pick up anything less than three against West Ham United.
With that pressure on the team, would Mikel Arteta be brave to give Eddie Nketiah the nod ahead of Alexandre Lacazette?
Lacazette has tucked away a couple of goals recently but his performances do not warrant a place in the starting lineup. Teammates have been required to put the ball on a plate for the French striker of late. Whether he’s not fully recovered from his injury earlier in the season or is just lacking confidence, I am not sure. But he warrants being dropped to the bench as a result.
The obvious option would be to stick Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the central striker’s role in our 4-3-3 formation. However, Mikel Arteta, like Emery, has often been reluctant to do this. It may happen in the near future when Kieran Tierney is back in the starting lineup as this will allow Bukayo Saka to push forward into his natural left wing role. The teenager is certainly deserving or a start in attack.
In the meantime though, Eddie Nketiah would be a good option to play as striker, with Aubameyang on the left. The youngster produced a fine finish against Portsmouth yesterday to add to his recent goal against Everton. The more game time he gets now the more beneficial to the future. Will Arteta agree? We’ll have to wait until Saturday to find out…