Preston North End may not be up with the front-runners in the Championship due to losing their first 3 League games of the season, but they are notoriously hard to beat recently with 3 wins and 2 draws in their last 6 League games. In fact they have only lost three out of their last 17 Championship games.
It is widely accepted that Arsene Wenger will be missing a host of first team players due to tiredness, injury or just simply in need of a rest (like Alexis) and the PNE manager Simon Grayson thinks his team can play without pressure and is in with a chance of causing a famous FA Cup upset.
Grayson told the Lancashire Evening Post: “Arsenal is a free game for us in a way, no one outside of Preston expects us to win.
“I want the players to go out and express themselves, enjoy the occasion, see where that takes us.
“This is an occasion when they can play against some world-class players.
“There is often a surprise in the third round of the FA Cup – hopefully it is us causing it.
“Players can thrive in big games and occasions.
“A couple of years ago we took the lead against Manchester United and the place was rocking. “We’ve had a play-off semi-final and some big league games here since then.
“Players work hard to get to a certain level, some might not be able to get to the stage of playing Arsenal, United and Liverpool on a regular basis.
“So when an opportunity like this comes up, I will always tell players to enjoy it and have no regrets.
“I don’t want them at the end thinking, ‘I could have done this or done that’.
“I’m sure there will be some nerves beforehand but once they get out there, let’s see what we can do. “We have got a chance, we are at home and have the crowd behind us.
“In our squad we have some talented players and we have shown against some big teams in the Championship that we can produce a performance.”
“We have got a 6ft 7ins centre-forward, so that might help,”
“In our squad we have players with heart and soul, who cover the distances, put the tackles in and put bodies in where it hurts.
“We aren’t the finished article – we’ve got a lot of young players who will get better.
“If we stand off Arsenal and let them play, we know what could happen.
“I’m pitting my wits against one of the best managers the Premier League has seen, so tactically I have to get my side of the equation right.”
Grayson was a tough customer in a tough era during his playing days, and you can be sure that his team will be strong and physical. We all know that you don’t survive in the Championship unless you are prepared to fight (and I mean fight!) for every single point.
With Arsenal’s weakened side and a very loud, partisan home crowd, this will certainly not be a walk in the park for the Gunners. Wenger had better have his team prepared to battle, because we certainly can’t afford to be knocked out of the competition that is probably our best hope of a trophy this season….