FA Cup third-round talking points: Chelsea face imperious Manchester City again, Emile Smith Rowe return boosts Arsenal's attack

This weekend's FA Cup third-round prospects, as Chelsea clash with Man City for the second time this week, while Emile Smith Rowe provides a welcome boost to Arsenal's attacking options.

Kai Havertz adorned the matchday programme for Chelsea's Premier League clash with Manchester City on Thursday and it was a reminder of his famous winner in Porto, which clinched his side the Champions League title in 2021. A lot has changed since that night - and this week's defeat means Chelsea have now lost four on the spin to City without scoring since that final.

This time, the gap between the two sides at Stamford Bridge may have only been one goal but in terms of strength, quality, depth, fitness and form the difference is sizeable. And that makes Chelsea's task of trying to break their losing run against City in the FA Cup this Sunday all the more difficult.


They've already been beaten at the Etihad in the Carabao Cup and their chances on Sunday were further hit by more additions to their injury list, with Raheem Sterling and Christian Pulisic forced off in the first half against City. Mason Mount had missed the fixture entirely after picking up a knock in training and while there is hope he could be back in time for the weekend, Graham Potter's options look limited in comparison with what Pep Guardiola can call upon.

Jamie Carragher's pre-match comments about Chelsea spending hundreds of millions of pounds and only ending up further away from where they want to be felt poignant. There certainly hasn't been the kick-on from that Champions League success that their supporters would have hoped for.

So how do Chelsea reverse their latest defeat to Man City in the space of four days? They will have to keep Erling Haaland quiet again and bring their youthful energy and intensity in midfield once more - but Potter can't magic up a more clinical attack and that looks to be where Chelsea's progress could come unstuck again. They hit a post with Carney Chukwuemeka at Stamford Bridge but their struggles in the final third have become a chronic problem.


Perhaps Havertz can come up with a special moment to stun Man City once more, as he did in that Champions League final... They reached the FA Cup final last season but they may need something special to get past the third round this time.
Peter Smith

Mikel Arteta is expected to rotate heavily for his side's meeting with Oxford United and supporters will have a particularly keen eye on the returning Emile Smith Rowe.

The 22-year-old's playing time this season amounts to just 46 minutes having been forced to undergo groin surgery in September. He has not started a game since the 2-0 loss to Newcastle in May.


His presence has been missed, particularly recently, with Arteta lacking offensive options across his front line but most notably behind Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka in the wide positions.

Smith Rowe was a first-choice starter for much of last season, and it should be remembered that his contribution was a significant one, his total of 10 Premier League goals bettered only by Saka among Arsenal players.

The Gunners are expected to enter the transfer market to bolster their front line this January, with Mykhailo Mudryk and Joao Felix their primary targets, but Smith Rowe, fit again at last, will be hoping to remind everyone against Oxford that Arsenal have another solution already in the midst.
Nick Wright

After three high-octane matches in 11 days, Unai Emery has a decision to make about how he lines up in midfield for the third-round visit of Stevenage.

Summer signing Boubacar Kamara has played virtually every minute during the festive period, while midfield partner Douglas Luiz has featured in 17 of Villa's 18 league games - and could do with a breather after playing little over an hour against Wolves after coming off late on against Tottenham due to a knock.

Jacob Ramsey is due to return soon, and further complicating matters is an injury picked up by John McGinn in the win over Spurs. With Marvelous Nakamba and Morgan Sanson reportedly available for transfer, Emery can perhaps only look to Leander Dendoncker as a senior option if he wants to rotate in midfield.


Philippe Coutinho could be asked to drop into a deeper role or Emery could turn to youth in the Cup, which is something that Villa fans have been accustomed to in recent seasons - particularly after a training ground Covid outbreak in January 2021 forced the club to field an entire team of youngsters in the third round against Liverpool.

One player that played in that 4-1 loss to Liverpool, where Louis Barry famously gave Villa the lead, is FA Youth Cup-winning midfielder Arjan Raikhy, who enjoyed the most remarkable of campaigns last season as he continued his progression.

Raikhy spent the first half of the season on loan to eventual National League champions Stockport, before joining Grimsby Town for the rest of the campaign and helping them also clinch promotion to the Football League, this time via the play-offs.

The strides Raikhy has made have been evident, with the technically-gifted midfielder impressing while on tour with the senior squad in Dubai as the World Cup was on in Qatar.

Raikhy, who recently turned 20, featured in matches against Chelsea and Brighton while in Dubai, and was involved in both of Villa's goals against the Seagulls, adding to the clamour to see him given another chance with the first team. The FA Cup visit of League Two Stevenage could just be the perfect opportunity.
Dev Trehan

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