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Monday, 10 December, 2018

Forest could frustrate second-string Arsenal

Busy Gunners may struggle to break down City Ground hosts

Danny Welbeck pokes in Arsenal's winner against West Ham in the EFL Cup quarter-final
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FA Cup third round
BT Sport 2, 4pm Sunday

The last thing FA Cup holders Arsenal need in January is any additional fixtures but they might have to add a third-round replay to their schedule after taking on Nottingham Forest at the City Ground.

Most clubs are enjoying a fairly quiet start to the year but Arsenal have another six games to play this month, including the two legs of their League Cup semi-final against Chelsea.

The first of those games takes place at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday and is likely to be at the forefront of Arsene Wenger's mind when he picks his team to take on Forest.

Wenger has regularly used his shadow squad in the Europa League and the League Cup this season and must be keen to rest the players who have featured regularly during the festive period.

Arsenal's 2-2 draw at home to Chelsea on Wednesday was their third match in six days and their squad was looking stretched with five senior players – Laurent Koscielny, Olivier Giroud, Nacho Monreal, Aaron Ramsey and Sead Kolasinac – sidelined through injury.

Giroud, scorer of three goals in the Europa League this season, is a major loss for Arsenal.

The French striker's centre-forward role will probably go to Danny Welbeck with Theo Walcott likely to lend support.

Welbeck and Walcott are more than capable of stretching second-tier defences but the service to them might not be the most reliable with defensive-minded duo Francois Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny strong candidates to replace Jack Wilshere and Granit Xhaka in midfield.

Defensively, Arsenal are weakened by the injuries to Koscielny and Monreal and it all adds up to a decent opportunity for Forest to spring a surprise.

Forest have been searching for a new manager since Mark Warburton were dismissed last week but they started solidly enough under caretaker boss Gary Brazil, drawing 0-0 at promotion-chasing Leeds on New Year's Day.

That was only Forest's second draw in 26 league matches this season but stalemates could be more common for them from now on as Brazil works hard to address the team's defensive deficiencies.

He set up the Tricky Trees to nullify Leeds, deploying industrious pair Liam Bridcutt and Ben Osborn in front of the back four, and his tactics might be similar for this match.

Even Arsenal's second-string attack will pose more of a threat than Leeds, but it should be an evenly-contested game and the draw looks an attractive price.

1pt 17-5 188Bet

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Team news
Nottingham Forest
Injured defender Jack Hobbs remains sidelined but Danny Fox (knee) is back in contention.

Granit Xhaka (groin) joins Laurent Koscielny (Achilles), Sead Kolasinac and Nacho Monreal (both ankle), Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud (both hamstring) on the absentee list.

Key stat
Arsenal have drawn five of their last eight matches.

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Forest started solidly enough under caretaker boss Gary Brazil, drawing 0-0 at promotion-chasing Leeds
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