Manchester City and Arsenal headline the fourth round of the FA Cup when they lock horns at the Etihad Stadium this evening.
Pep Guardiola’s side thumped Chelsea 4-0 in the third round to set up a tie with the Gunners, who eased past Oxford United 3-0 at the Kassam Stadium.
Prior to pitting their wits against the only side in English football to have out-performed them this season, Man City are thanking their lucky stars that a certain Erling Braut Haaland reverted to type in the weekend’s Premier League clash with Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Following a rare scoreless streak for the towering Norwegian, Haaland made it four hat-tricks for the Premier League season in a comfortable 3-0 victory over Julen Lopetegui’s men, powering home a header, slotting home a penalty and tapping in his third to awake from a brief period of hibernation.
However, Guardiola’s side still have a five-point gap to make up to leaders Arsenal whom they are
yet to face this term in the Premier League table, but they barely needed to get out of second gear to put four unanswered goals past a disjointed Chelsea side in round four of the FA Cup.
Seeking to avoid a fourth-round exit for the first time since the 2014-15 season, Man City have progressed to the semi-finals in each of the last four FA Cup campaigns, and the reigning English champions have strung together a nine-game winning streak in FA Cup home matches scoring at least three goals each time.
Not since a goalless stalemate with Sporting Lisbon in March 2022 have Man City failed to score in a competitive home fixture, although Brentford have proven that the Citizens are not invincible at the Etihad, and Arsenal are fearing no foe that is put in front of them at present.
Fresh from posting respective derby victories over their local adversaries, Arsenal’s showdown with Manchester United certainly lived up to the billing, as the two clubs played out arguably the most enthralling contest of the Premier League season so far.
Despite breaching the Gunners’ defence twice through Marcus Rashford and Lisandro Martinez, Man United could have had no complaints about the final result following a relentless period of second-half pressure from Arsenal, whose magnificent run continued through Eddie Nketiah’s brace and Bukayo Saka’s wonder strike in a 3-2 triumph.
Continuing to deputise expertly in the absence of former Man City attacker Gabriel Jesus, Nketiah was also on target twice alongside Mohamed Elneny in Arsenal’s FA Cup third-round win over League One side Oxford, who managed to contain a second-string side well before the floodgates opened.
The 14-time FA Cup champions have, rather surprisingly, only progressed past the fourth round of the FA Cup once since 2017 which was their run to glory in 2019-20 and they have been dumped out at this stage by Manchester United in 2018-19 and Southampton in 2020-21.
The defeat to the Saints marks the last time that Mikel Arteta’s side have faced a fellow top-flight team in the FA Cup, but Arsenal travel to the Etihad boasting a five-game winning run away from home – scoring 12 goals and keeping four clean sheets in that run.
Less than a year after becoming Arsenal manager, Arteta masterminded an exemplary smash and grab 2-0 win over Man City in the semi-finals of the 2019-20 FA Cup, but the hosts have since won their last five against the Gunners in all tournaments. —SportsMole
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