Arsene Wenger claims that he is still haunted by Arsenal’s FA Cup defeat to Blackburn last season and is determined to put everything into beating Tottenham in Saturday’s highly anticipated third-round clash.
Arsenal exited in disappointing circumstances at home to the Championship side in last year’s fifth round, in a defeat that realistically ended their chance to end a trophy drought that extends to their lifting of the FA Cup in 2005. And Wenger is adamant that Arsenal will be doing all they can to reclaim the trophy this season, starting with a victory against their north London rivals.
"I had the luck to win four FA Cups, that means I always put the effort in," he said, according to Arsenal’s official website. "I'm very keen to do it again, it's a long time now.
"Honestly I still have in my mind the fact that we went out last year at home against Blackburn, that was not good enough for us and we have to make sure we absolutely put the effort in to have the chance to go through.
"It's an opportunity that we want to take. On top of that, afterwards we have nine days until the next Premier League game [so] we can give absolutely everything in this game."
In truth, Wenger has little opportunity to rotate his squad due to a lengthy injury list. Nicklas Bendtner is the latest casualty and joins Aaron Ramsey and Kieran Gibbs as certain absentees from Saturday’s clash at the Emirates. Olivier Giroud is recovering well from an ankle injury, but an illness means he is highly likely to miss out, while it is a similar prognosis for Mesut Ozil who has been troubled by a shoulder problem.
Tottenham also have more than their fair share of injury problems. Jan Vertonghen, Younes Kaboul and Paulinho are all ruled out, while Gylfi Sigurdsson is unlikely to recover in time to take on Arsenal. Better news comes in the form of Lewis Holtby, Jermain Defoe and Andros Townsend all returning to training on Friday, with late assessments set to be made on their fitness ahead of the match.
Tottenham’s encouraging run new boss Tim Sherwood continued with a fine win at the home of Champions Manchester United on New Year’s Day to take their record to three wins and a draw under his stewardship in the Premier League. And, given the opposition, Sherwood has confirmed that there will be no chance to give his players a breather on Saturday.
“This is the biggest game for any Tottenham person and the manager particularly,” he said, according to Tottenham’s official website. “If we manage to win at the Emirates, it would be pinnacle.
“When the name comes out of the hat and you are playing Arsenal in the third round it’s a disappointment, you want a few easier draws, perhaps play a couple of the younger lads, give them that experience, but when you are drawn at the Emirates you cannot afford to do that. We know how much it means to the fans.”
Prediction: While Sherwood modified his gung-ho tactics to some degree against Manchester United, with Etienne Capoue offering more protection in central midfield, his two-man frontline still means his players have to work tirelessly not to be overrun in midfield. Against United they did that to success, but Arsenal, even with their injuries, have far more quality in that area to call upon. The likes of Tomas Rosicky, Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere are capable of finding those pockets of space in between the lines and should be key to a home win.
Arsenal 2-1 Tottenham
Where to watch: The FA Cup third round tie will kick off at 12.15 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by Fox, with a live stream available on Fox Soccer 2Go.