8th January 2016: Sunderland in the Cup kick-starts testing run of fixtures

Happy Friday folks. Arsene Wenger held his press conference this morning ahead of tomorrow’s FA Cup third round clash with Sunderland at Emirates stadium, and insisted his side won’t be taking the competition lightly as they attempt to win it for the third consecutive season.

Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce indicated earlier in the week that he’d rest several first-choice players tomorrow, with a Premier League game at Swansea on the horizon next mid-week, but Arsene says he’s only looking as far ahead as the next game and won’t be prioritizing any one competition over another. He said:

We want to win every competition we participate in. The FA Cup is one of them, for us it is an important competition. Confidence is a global thing and you can’t really separate it from one competition to another. My energy is about giving absolutely everything to win the next game. The next game is the FA Cup. For us it is a very important competition as always. We just this week had the semi-finals of the League Cup. The teams gave absolutely everything. I saw Everton against Manchester City and it was a top-class game. That’s what you want – the teams to commit. At our level, you do not choose when you commit and when you don’t. This is a serious competition. I’ve won the FA Cup six times – that means I take it seriously. In the whole history, nobody won it more. That means as well that it’s not so easy to win it. You want to feel as well that your team is ready for every single challenge and the FA Cup is one that matters to us.

Whilst I don’t doubt for a second that Arsene genuinely wants to win every game he manages, we’re likely to rotate our squad quite a lot tomorrow in preparation for Wednesday’s league game at Liverpool, so we’ll undoubtedly be under-strength against the Black Cats. Yet that’s merely part of management; using your resources sensibly, and so rather than being disrespectful to the world’s oldest cup competition, he’ll just be doing his job.

Arsene also explained he won’t be expecting an easy ride against Sunderland, despite their boss hinting at resting players, and highlighted the importance of a competition he’s won a record six times, and Arsenal have lifted on a record 12 occasions. He said:

I’ve been in the job long enough to not expect any weaknesses from Sam Allardyce because I know him well enough to know that his team will be focused and motivated no matter who plays. In the Premier League you cannot say that the managers play weaker teams because everybody has a squad of 25 players who are of Premier League level. The FA Cup is a great competition. We take care of this competition like everybody does. Everybody dreams of winning the FA Cup. There may be some priorities at some stage of the season for some clubs who think they are in trouble and have to make these kinds of decisions, so they choose. We are confident because when we perform we know we can beat anyone in the Premier League. We have learnt this season that the Premier League is tricky and we play at home in front of our crowd where we feel that we can qualify, but we have learnt against Sunderland that on the break they were dangerous. It was a very hard-fought win against them.

That game was at the start of December and despite taking a first-half lead through Joel Campbell, we were made to work very hard for the three points after Olivier Giroud scored an own-goal just before half-time.

The striker made amends in the second period, heading home an Aaron Ramsey cross, before the Welshman sealed a 3-1 win himself right at the death. With memories of that game still relatively fresh then, we should be well aware that tomorrow is likely to a be very testing, even if both sides will likely be missing some key players.

But if we can win, it’d be a great start to a difficult run of fixtures that sees us travel to Liverpool and Stoke before hosting Chelsea.

Back post-match.


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