Most Arsenal fans would rather that the team were fighting for the elusive Premiership crown this season, but as that looks like being a lost cause this time round we are urging the team to go on and retain the FA Cup as a consolation.
First of all we have to topple a high-flying Middlesbrough side who have won their last six games and are full of confidence, but the Gunners have also won five of their last seven in a higher division of football, and have a star-studded squad on paper. But Wenger is looking at another statistic that says that Arsenal have lost just ONE of their last 40 home games in the competition. Wenger thinks this will help the team’s self-belief. “It gives us great confidence,” he said on the official Arsenal website.
“At our level, it’s always important to find a good compromise between confidence and the urgency level. That’s what is at stake for us on Sunday.
“You have to wonder if you have the quality to beat Middlesbrough. I say yes, so let’s just focus on us, focus on our quality and produce the performance that we need to beat them.”
Much has been made of the fact that Boro knocked Man City out at the Etihad (Hey we won there too!) and Wenger believes that Aitor Karanka’s fully deserved to progress in that game. “It wasn’t a freak result, especially in the second half,” he said. “In the first half, Man City were on top but couldn’t take their chances. In the second half, Middlesbrough deserved to win the game.
“When I first arrived in England, they were a club who had big players. You had Boksic, Juninho, Boateng – many great players there. I believe that they will come back one day and they’ve always produced good young players as well.
“It’s good to see but when you look at the Championship, there are so many teams who were in the Premier League when I first arrived that you think have the potential to come up again. That shows you that it’s a massive battle to get back to the elite again.”
One Boro player that all Arsenal fans will know is Jonathon Woodgate, the ex-England international who is now probably in his last year as a professional. Woodgate says that he would not be surprised if Boro continue their winning run tomorrow. “If you keep winning games it breeds confidence and it makes people want to keep on trying and going in the right direction. If we do that at Arsenal we’ll have a good chance in the following games.”
“They are a fantastic team. I think this year they’ve got the best player in the Premier League in Alexis Sanchez. I think he’s been outstanding. They’ve got pace all over with Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud. They are a fantastic team.
“But there’s nothing better than playing against the best teams. The lads will love it and they will thrive on it. They did against Man City and Liverpool and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if we upset them. You’ve got to ride your luck as well. Against Man City we played really well but we rode out luck and we need to do that as well.”
It is all set up to be a great battle, with the prize of being just one game away from another Wembley appearance. Wenger was asked big-game if nerves may play a part in the outcome, and he said: “It’s not hard to stay focused,”
“That our fans have that dream is normal and the fans of Middlesbrough and people everywhere have the same dream. Our job is to be realistic, pragmatic and turn up on the day with a good performance.”
And so say all of us! COYG!!!!