Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is wary of the challenges posed by FA Cup holders Wigan Athletic ahead of their semi-final clash at the Wembley Stadium on Saturday.
The ‘Gunners’ last clinched the oldest cup tournament in the world in 2005, at the expense of the then favourites, Manchester United, on penalty shootout.
But Wigan’s stunning victory over Manchester City in last season’s Wembley final ranks higher in the lists of FA Cup upsets in contemporary times, and the ‘Latics’ did once more make weight for their credentials as one of the tournament’s ‘giant killers’ by knocking out Manuel Pellegrini’s City this season.
“We all play to win something and if you are in the FA Cup everyone can dream of winning it at the start of the season,” Wenger said.
“In the championship you can talk and talk but we know the biggest teams will win it.
“That open dream is what makes the FA Cup special in football.”
The French boss’ admiration for the Cup tournament also bares on the fact it is the only piece of silverware available for the North London outfit to end the season on a high.
Arsenal are out of the Champions League, and again deep inside the usual end-of-the-season tussle for a fourth place finish in the Premier League, with only a solitary point separating them and fifth placed Everton- who have a game in hand- with just five games left.
Having been acquainted with the drama of the championship since childhood as a school boy in a remote village in France, the 64-year-old reckon, unlike the FA Cup; “only seven clubs can dream of winning the league title at the start of the season”.
And with Shefield United, who plays Hull City in the other semi-final- still in the competition, one will doubt if the Championship clubs are not plotting to outgun the top flight teams.
Two trips to Wembley before its all done and dusted is uncompromisable for Wenger and his men, yet needs his best team against Wigan who have been playing the best attacking football in the English second division of late.
Aaron Ramsey is set to start after coming on as a substitute on his return to the squad on the back of his three months hiatus in last weekend’s loss to Everton. Goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski is expected to start in goal.
The manager says Kieran Gibbs, Tomas Rosicky and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are all doubts while Mesut Ozil could be back next Saturday and Laurent Koscielny could be back for Tuesday.
“I’m expecting everyone to contribute because we have a lot of experience. We have played great games in the FA Cup,” Wenger added. “We are still in a position where we can have a good season and that’s what we’re focusing on.”