2014 and 2015 winners Arsenal begin their FA Cup campaign against Preston. Willie Duncan (@Willie_Duncan) shares his views.
Preston v Arsenal | Saturday 17:30 | BT Sport 1
Arsenal required a superhuman effort to pick up a point from their Premier League match against AFC Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium on Tuesday night.
When the north Londoners were 3-0 down, I’d imagine that Arsene Wenger’s critics were ready to sharpen their knives against the man who has been in charge of the Gunners for more than 20 years.
As it was, Arsenal came roaring back and the 67-year-old French boss was left delighted by his side’s fighting spirit as they left the south coast significantly more pleased with a point than they would have imagined that they would be when they arrived.
Arsene and his players, however, will settle for a much more serene 90 minutes as they aim to avoid an FA Cup banana skin against Preston North End at Deepdale on Saturday evening.
The Gunners have had a good record in this competition in recent years, snapping up the silverware in two of the last three seasons, with Watford being the only side to have beaten the Gunners in the last 17 FA Cup ties that Wenger’s men have contested.
The Championship side have won just one of their last six home matches in all competitions and Simon Grayson’s men will need to be at their very best if they are to avoid another FA Cup exit at the hands of Premier League opposition.
Manchester United were winners at Deepdale last season, while Chelsea, Liverpool, Portsmouth and Manchester City (all playing in the top flight at the time) have beaten Preston on their own patch within the last decade.
Excluding matches at Wembley, Arsenal have scored two or more goals in each of their last four FA Cup ties on their travels and, given their fabulous fightback against the Cherries, there is value to be had in backing the Gunners to get amongst the goals once again when they lock horns with lower league opposition.
The odds compilers, however, have got wise to Arsenal’s impressive array of attacking talent and you can only back the Premier League side to score more than one goal at a super skinny 2/5 – but, of course, there is always a better bet available and, on this occasion, it is the supremely generous even money quote for the Gunners to score in each half.
Preston will put up a fight, but Grayson’s team don’t have the quality required to keep the Gunners quiet and, so, backing Wenger’s men to find the net either side of the half-time whistle represents excellent value ahead of this FA Cup clash.
Preston v Arsenal – Arsenal to score in both halves (1/1 Stan James)
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