Arsene Wenger insists complacency will not be an issue when his Arsenal side head into the FA Cup final as strong favorites against Hull City and that they can deal with the pressure of ending their nine-year trophy drought. After a season in which they fell away from contending for the Premier League title, although still securing a place in the Champions League, lifting the FA Cup would be a fine way to finish and breed optimism ahead of the new campaign.
But memories remain fresh of the last time Arsenal were in a major final, when they lost to huge underdogs Birmingham City in the climax of the League Cup three years ago. Wenger knows all too well not to take anything for granted.
“To be favorites doesn't guarantee you anything,” he said, according to the club’s official website. “It just means if you turn up on the day of the game with a good performance you have more chance of winning. So let's focus on turning up with a great performance.
“I don't believe we need any warning [about Hull]. We know that a final is a final, that Hull are a Premier League team, they can pass the ball, they can create chances. It's just down to us to perform well on the day of the game. “I honestly don’t feel there is any danger of complacency -- we know the difficulty of the task.”
Mesut Ozil is among the players to have spoken about the potential for lifting the FA Cup to provide a springboard for the club to go on a run of success. Yet, the fear of failure will surely be significant. Were Arsenal to lost at the last against a team they are expected to beat and extend their trophy-less run, the mentality of the squad and the management of Wenger -- who has still to put pen to paper on his new contract -- will be under huge scrutiny. The Frenchman, though, believes his players are equipped to deal with the pressure.
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“There is always high expectancy and it brings pressure,” he added. “The advantage we have is that we’ve played many games this season under that kind of pressure and tension and our experience of dealing with it will help us prepare for the final.”
Certainly, if they do triumph at Wembley, no one could accuse Arsenal of having an easy path to glory. Arsenal have faced three of the Premier League’s top six en route to the final -- Tottenham, Liverpool and Everton -- as well as last year’s winners -- Wigan -- in the semifinals.
In contrast, Hull have had to face just one fellow top flight side on their way to a place in their first appearance in a major final in their 110-year history. Steve Bruce’s side had to deal with the pressure of being heavy favorites in their semifinal with League One outfit Sheffield United, but he is now hoping to revel in their underdog status as Wigan Athletic did when beating Manchester City in last year’s final.
“The beauty of the competition is exactly what it is on Saturday,” Bruce said, according to Hull City’s official website. “It’s the mighty Arsenal with all their history, tradition, huge support and a huge club against the smaller club and the attraction is the ability of the smaller club to turn them over. We have to hope that we can do that and we have every belief that we can.
“We were never going to win the Premier League, but I asked if we could win six games in the FA Cup. We’ve won five so far. Can we add the sixth? It would be terrific if we could.”
Hull, who have already achieved their main goal this season of preserving their Premier League status, are still waiting on the fitness of defender James Chester. Robbie Brady, out of action for six months, is striving hard to earn a place in the squad. Strike duo Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic are cup-tied.
Arsenal’s only fitness doubts are over Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Thomas Vermaelen, with both set to have late fitness tests.
Where to watch: The FA Cup final will kick off from Wembley at noon ET. Coverage will be provided by Fox, with a live stream available on Fox Soccer 2Go.