After their 2-1 win against Leicester City on Tuesday in the Premier League, Arsenal return to screen on Sunday when they play Middlesborough in the fifth-round of the FA Cup. With the Premier League title out of reach and winning the Champions League unlikely, the FA Cup is the realistic target this season. And as holders of the Cup, Arsenal will not want it leave the Emirates. However, they first have to dispose of an in-form Middlesborough team who knocked out (and outplayed) Premier League title holders Manchester City in the fourth-round. A trick test, then.
For me, the Arsenal player to watch on Sunday is centre-back Gabriel Paulista. If he plays then it’ll be his long-awaited debut for the club, after his £11.3 million move to the London club from Villarreal in January. Many of the news outlets are reporting that Gabriel will be one of the eleven. When asked whether the Brazilian will play on Sunday, Wenger replied: “Gabriel is very close to making his debut. He has the ability, good pace and he’s good in the air.” (Source: Arsenal Football Club) If Gabriel does make his debut on Sunday he will become the 829th player to have played for the club.
Middlesborough on Sunday will be an ideal time deploy Gabriel, as it’s a match against lower league opposition at the Emirates stadium. It would definitely help the 24-year-old in settling in and gives him a chance to push for first-team action. Arsenal would still have to be cautious, as Middlesborough aren’t exactly a pushover. However, I’m confident Gabriel has the ability to perform on Sunday and justify his sizeable price-tag.