Nottingham Forest vs Arsenal Preview: Gunners begin FA Cup defence against Championship opposition

Arsenal go in search of their 14th FA Cup this year.

Nottingham Forest vs Arsenal Preview: Gunners begin FA Cup defence against Championship opposition
Per Mertesacker celebrates Arsenal's FA Cup victory last season | Photo: Getty Images.

Arsenal kick start their defence of the FA Cup on Sunday as they travel to the City Ground to take on Championship outfit Nottingham Forest.

The Gunners have been poor on the road this season but will face a different proposition in the form of a Forest side who will be keen to cause an upset. 

Arsenal will meanwhile go into the game without Arsene Wenger who begins his touchline ban for comments made over refereeing decisions in recent matches. Steve Bould is therefore expected to take charge from the dug out with Wenger in the stands.

Timely distraction for Arsenal

In previous season's the FA Cup has acted as a timely distraction for Arsenal and this year could provide the club with the same relief.

With their league form for the most part being relatively underwhelming the Gunners have used the FA Cup as a chance to forget about their poor displays in the past few campaigns, winning the competition three times in the past four years. 

Although it ended the club's lengthy trophy drought in 2013/14 the Arsenal supporters have grown tired of a club only competing for the FA Cup, but the Gunners do seem to have a love affair with the famous old trophy that is hard to ignore. 

Arsenal are a club that should be competing on all fronts but with the FA Cup yet again acting as one of their slim chances to win something this season it wouldn't be surprising if they were to add to their record amount of triumphs in the competition. 

The North London side have won it 13 times, once more than Manchester United whilst Wenger is the most successful manager in FA Cup history, winning it on seven occasions. 

Chance of an upset? 

Arsenal haven't been knocked out of the third round of the FA Cup since Wenger took over the club in 1996 and based on that fact the omens are not good for a Forest upset. 

The Gunners did come pretty close to suffering a third round exit last season though, going 1-0 down against Preston North End before Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud rescued the tie. 

Forest are in quite bad form going into the game having not won any of their previous five matches. Their last win came against Bolton on the 9th December and it is therefore difficult to see how they could overcome Arsenal on Sunday. 

If there is to be any chance of an upset then the hosts will look to Kieran Dowell to try and lead them into the fourth round. Although still only 20 years old the Everton loanee has been one of Forest's main men this season, scoring eight times and assisting four goals in the Championship. 

Last time they met

The Gunners last met Sunday's opponents in the League Cup last season, as they put in a thoroughly convincing display to win 4-0 away from home. Granit Xhaka was on the score-sheet on that night, whilst Lucas Perez scored twice and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also netted. 

The two opponents have faced each other on three previous occasions in the FA Cup with Arsenal knocking Forest out twice. Those wins came in 1978/79 and in 1992/93. Forest's only victory over the Gunners in the competition came in the 1987/88 season. 

Team news

Arsenal go into the game with a host of injuries and because of that the potential for rotation could be quite slim. Defenders Sead Kolasinac and Nacho Monreal remain out but Laurent Koscielny could return. 

Meanwhile Ramsey and Xhaka will be missing from the Gunners' midfield whilst Giroud is another absentee. 

A host of youngsters could be included in the squad, with players such as Eddie Nketiah and Reiss Nelson who have already received game time this season potentially being given another chance to impress.  

As for Forest, Daryl Murphy is an injury doubt and could miss the game after coming off against Sunderland in their final game of 2017.