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9th Mar, 2017 | 11:45am

Sideways passing: Three things to expect from Arsenal in FA Cup clash v Lincoln

COMMENT By Will Butcher

Arsenal will be looking to avoid a huge FA Cup upset against non-league Lincoln City on Saturday at the Emirates Stadium.

National League leaders Lincoln have made it all the way to the last eight of the competition – the first time a non-league team have been in the quarter-finals – after beating Premier League Burnley in the last round at Turf Moor.

In what is the two sides first encounter for more than 100 years after last doing battle in March 1915, here are three things we can expect from Arsenal against the Imps.

80% possession

The Emirates is a huge pitch, and the Gunners are likely to face 11 men behind the ball on Saturday. With that likely to prove difficult to break down, sideways passes from the central midfielders to the full-backs will become a common theme throughout Saturday’s clash in north London. The Gunners need an early goal to break the hearts of the Imps, which will force their lesser opposition to come out from their defensive blocks and look to find an equaliser. If Lincoln do prove difficult to break down, then they will force Arsenal to keep the ball in midfield without doing anything with it.

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Aerial strength to be tested

Lincoln’s wonderful domestic form, which sees them sit six points clear at the top of the National League, is largely down to their prowess in the air. Striker Matt Rhead has had a hand in 26 goals this season with his ability in the air proving crucial in the Imps’ final third, while captain Luke Waterfall has scored seven goals from defence. Whoever is given a start at centre-back, whether it be Rob Holding, Gabriel, Laurent Koscielny or Shkodran Mustafi, must be wary of keeping things strong at the back from set pieces, which will prove the Imps’ best chance of scoring.

Fringe players given a chance

Injury-prone striker Danny Welbeck has had to resort to playing for the Gunners’ reserve side in recent matches, while the likes of Carl Jenkinson, Lucas Perez and Holding wait in the wings to be given another chance in Arsene Wenger’s first team. A huge 88 places separate the two sides, which should give the French manager an excuse to rotate his squad to a degree that still sees them earn a place in the last four of the competition. Wenger will be keeping a close eye on his fringe stars should he give them a chance, as he looks to use the depths of his squad with the season entering its final stages.

In other Arsenal news, here is everything Gunners fans need to know about Lincoln City.

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