Football: Arsenal serious about FA cup too

Alexis Sanchez showing his frustration despite helping Arsenal come from 0-3 down to draw 3-3 at Bournemouth in midweek. Manager Arsene Wenger says the Chilean striker is "mentally and physically jaded", so he will not feature at Preston today.
Alexis Sanchez showing his frustration despite helping Arsenal come from 0-3 down to draw 3-3 at Bournemouth in midweek. Manager Arsene Wenger says the Chilean striker is "mentally and physically jaded", so he will not feature at Preston today.PHOTO: REUTERS

Winning 'massive competition' always yearly target besides EPL and Europe commitments

LONDON • Arsene Wenger says the FA Cup remains "a big priority" for Arsenal despite his side already waging two-pronged assaults on the Premier League and Champions League.

The Frenchman knows he must deliver a place in next season's Champions League, but is adamant that does not mean he will view the FA Cup, and the potential fixture pile-up that comes with it, as a distraction. The Gunners travel to Championship side Preston North End today seeking to lift FA Cup for a third time in four years.

"It is a big priority for us," he said. "We have shown historically that we care about it and it is a massive competition for everybody.

"To win the FA Cup is always a target each year. We know as well that after a congested Christmas period that the third round is always a tricky game.

"That is why I believe it is a mental challenge for the Premier League teams to prepare well and not have a bad surprise, especially when you go to a Championship team, as it is always difficult."

Arsenal go into the tie having recovered after trailing 3-0 to claim a point at Bournemouth, although the relief of avoiding defeat was tempered by the loss of two points in the title race.

NO WALK IN THE PARK

To win the FA Cup is always a target each year. We know as well that after a congested Christmas period that the third round is always a tricky game.

ARSENE WENGER , on the Gunners not taking their second-tier opponents Preston lightly.

Alexis Sanchez proved instrumental in the comeback, yet at the final whistle the 28-year-old took off his gloves and hurled them to the ground in frustration in front of the travelling Arsenal support before marching off the field without shaking hands either with the Bournemouth players or the officials.

Wenger insisted that he was pleased to see the Chilean visibly distressed after the draw because it shows a winning mentality but admitted that the forward is "mentally and physically jaded" .

Sanchez played every minute of Arsenal's festive fixtures and Wenger confirmed that he would be rested today.

Olivier Giroud has scored in each of his last three games and is again expected to lead the line at Preston.

But Wenger is likely to make changes and could include Danny Welbeck for the first time since the forward picked up a knee injury against Manchester City last May.

"He wants to play," the Frenchman said. "But Danny is as well conscious of taking his time. He came back after a long injury and had a setback so he suffered a lot."

Preston manager Simon Grayson has inspired a team to an FA Cup upset before, having been in charge of Leeds, then a third-tier side, when they defeated Manchester United at Old Trafford in the third round seven years ago. His side are on a decent run at present, having lost just one of their last six matches.

"I don't think winning at Old Trafford as a Leeds fan and Leeds manager can be replaced by anything but beating Arsenal would be right up there because they're one of the best teams in the country," he said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

PRESTON V ARSENAL

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 07, 2017, with the headline 'Arsenal serious about FA cup too'. Print Edition | Subscribe