Since lifting the trophy for a record 13th time in 2017, the Gunners haven’t made it past this stage in either of the last two seasons, whilst the Cherries advanced only once past the fourth round in their history.
With both sides experiencing underwhelming league campaigns, the Gunners at 10th-place on the log and the Cherries inside the drop zone at 18th, this cup tie certainly provides a welcome distraction, at least from the weekly burden of bread and butter expectations.
The north London side got to this round courtesy of a 1-0 win over Leeds United earlier in the month, and Mikel Arteta made intentions clear that he is keen on a good cup run when he selected a near-full strength side for that match. In the outfield fringe players Mattéo Guendouzi and Reiss Nelson were the only two coming into the side for then injured Lucas Torreira and ill Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang respectively. In goal Emiliano Martínez rotated with Bernd Leno as has been the norm with league and FA cup games.
So today, I think we can expect that same intent as the Spaniard continues his rebuild of this Gunners side into a focused and workmanlike unit.
Bournemouth come into this match on the back of a good 3-1 league win against Brighton. However, their only other win in their last eight games was the FA Cup third round tie against Luton Town, making their situation a bit more precarious.
So while the Cherries faithful will be hoping the recent victory will see their side turning a corner, Eddie Howe must be faced with a difficult choice; does he go full strength to give his side the best chance at winning this game, or do he give some of his first choice players some needed rest, after a gruelling fixture run, ahead of their league match against fellow strugglers Aston Villa. Who wants to be coach?
The Gunners will be without David Luiz, as he joins Auba on the sidelines through suspension as a result of his red card at Chelsea.
Sead Kolasinac, Calum Chambers, Kieran Tierney and Nelson remain unavailable due to injury, though Sokratis is back in contention after missing the last two games with illness.
Dani Ceballos, whose future faces uncertainty, may get a rare start.
With these two sides playing out a 1-1 draw when we visited the Vitality on Boxing day, the general feel may be that this will be another close game. However, I suspect the home side may not go full throttle, especially ahead of an important fixture this weekend. So my money will be on Arsenal remain making it through to the next round. COYG!