A night off for Arsenal’s leading scorer and captain, then. But Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has made his presence felt at the Emirates tonight nonetheless. Ahead of a month of frenzied transfer-window speculation, he’s sought to shut down all idle chat surrounding his future. Arsenal fans will enjoy reading the captain’s notes in their official matchday programme this evening. Unless the first letter of each paragraph spells A-C-T-U-A-L-L-Y-I-M-O-F-F-S-E-E-Y-A, in the style of former Autocar employee James May, we haven’t checked that closely.
Arsenal make four changes to the side that beat Manchester United last week. Emiliano Martinez, Rob Holding, Reiss Nelson and Matteo Guendouzi take the places of Bernd Leno, Lucas Torreira, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Leeds make five changes to the team sent out to draw at West Brom in their last match. Illan Meslier and Robbie Gotts make their debuts, alongside the recalled Gaetano Berardi, Barry Douglas and Patrick Bamford. Casilla, Liam Cooper, Stuart Dallas, Eddie Nketiah and Helder Costa make way.
Arsenal: Martinez, Sokratis, Luiz, Holding, Nelson, Guendouzi, Xhaka, Kolasinac, Ozil, Pepe, Lacazette.
Subs: Leno, Ceballos, Mavropanos, Willock, Martinelli, John-Jules, Saka.
Leeds United: Meslier, Ayling, Berardi, White, Douglas, Phillips, Alioski, Gotts, Klich, Harrison, Bamford.
Subs: Cooper, Casilla, Dallas, Helder Costa, Davis, Stevens, Casey.
Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire).
Arsenal and Leeds United first met in the FA Cup in 1950. Leeds, then as now, were in the second tier, but a defence led by legend-in-making John Charles gave a good account of itself. They restricted the hosts to the one, decisive goal, as Alex Forbes beat three men down the left and fed Don Roper, who crossed for Reg Lewis to head home. Arsenal went on to win the cup. Leeds missed out on promotion.
The next time the teams met in the cup was the 1972 final. Leeds were the best team in the land back then, the bosses of England from 1965 to 1974, though much good that did them in terms of overall trophy haul. By way of illustration, it was Arsenal who were reigning double champions at the time; Leeds righted some wrongs by prevailing 1-0 at Wembley thanks to Mick Jones’ pullback and Allan Clarke’s diving header. It remains their only FA Cup.
Arsenal, by contrast, have 13 of the things. They’ve also got much the better of Leeds in the cup head-to-heads, having knocked them out in 1983, 1991, 1993, 2004, 2011 and 2012. Leeds’ only FA Cup victory during that time came in 1997, when an early Rod Wallace goal was enough to see off the Gunners at Highbury.
Leeds have won just one of their last five games in the Championship. They won’t want to be narrowly missing out on promotion again like they did in 1950 (and last year), so aren’t likely to compromise their push for the Premier League by picking a full-strength side. Arsenal might give it a good old go, though. So for a few reasons, the hosts are the hot favourites tonight. But anything can happen in the FA Cup. It’s on!
Kick off: 7.56pm GMT. Heads up!