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FA Cup: Danny returns for Wenger's 21st campaign at Preston

FA Cup By: Collins Udeme | 07/01/2017

FA Cup: Danny returns for Wenger's 21st campaign at Preston

Danny Welbeck returns as Arsenal kick off their 2016/17 Emirates FA Cup campaign with a trip to Deepdale Stadium where they will take on Championship side Preston North End in a third round fixture of the competition on Saturday.

As he waits in the starting blocks for his 21st run in the FA Cup, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger can look back with pride on six triumphs and ownership of the cup’s two longest winning streaks.

Wenger insists the FA Cup is a "big priority" for Arsenal this season and has said he will only make a couple of changes to his strongest side.

Team News

Arsenal will be missing Kieran Gibbs, Per Mertesacker (both knee), Santi Cazorla (ankle) and Francis Coquelin (hamstring).

Wenger says he will also rest goalkeeper Petr Cech, defender Laurent Koscielny and forward Alexis Sanchez while the Gunners' boss could unleash fit-again forward Danny Welbeck who has been absent all season with a knee injury, and has made just one start for the Gunners since April.

Defender Marnick Vermijl (groin) is a doubt for Preston, who are without Jermaine Beckford (suspension).

Midfielders Aiden McGeady and Paul Gallagher could start after continuing their returns from injury.

Head to Head

The last meeting between the two sides in Lancashire came in 1999, also in the FA Cup third round.

That day Arsenal came from two goals down to triumph 4-2 with a second-half double from midfielder Emmanuel Petit turning the tie on its head.

Since then Wenger’s team have lifted the trophy on five occasions and Wenger is keen for another trip to Wembley in May. Preston manager Simon Grayson has met Arsenal three times previously in the FA Cup, all while Leeds boss (D1, L2).

In three previous FA Cup meetings at Deepdale, there have been 15 goals between these sides (seven for Preston, eight for Arsenal) at an average of five per game.

Cup form

The Lilywhites have won one of their past 15 FA Cup games against top-flight opposition, their solitary win a 4-1 away hammering of Derby in January 2008.

The Gunners have a near imperious recent record against lower league opposition in the FA Cup, losing just one of their last 36 ties (1-0 v Blackburn in February 2013).

Managers' quotes

Simon Grayson - Preston manager

"It's a tough task but one we will thrive on and really enjoy and look forward to.

"From a personal point of view I am going to be up against a manager who has graced the Premier League for 20-odd years. The players are going to be against household names that they have only really seen on Sky and Match of the Day.

"It's a great opportunity for everybody and the supporters to really thrive off and there will be a real positive atmosphere.

"When you look at Arsenal and when they are on their game they are as good as anybody in the world. The way they pass the ball, the forward runners, they play quick, incisive football and they have shown that over the years now." Grayson told Preston's official website.

Arsene Wenger - Arsenal manager

"I just believe that the cup is more intense, more concentrated, more focused on the day than any other competition,” he told Arsenal Player. It’s always that day or never and I love that. I’ve won the cup in every country I’ve worked in and, for me, it’s something special. It’s always a special opportunity.

"Preston v Arsenal is a classic cup tie scenario,” added the manager. “It’s maybe what makes football interesting, because it’s the only sport where the difference of divisions does not play a part on the day. Football is more unpredictable than any other sport and that’s why it creates such an interest."