Football: Arsenal need to be more efficient, says Wenger ahead of Barca tie

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger during the  FA Cup Fifth Round football match between Hull City.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger during the FA Cup Fifth Round football match between Hull City.PHOTO: REUTERS

Arsenal boss seeks to maximise chances against mighty Barca in Champions League

LONDON • Arsene Wenger accepted his Arsenal side must be more ruthless against Barcelona than they were against Hull City when the Champions League holders arrive at the Emirates Stadium tomorrow.

The Gunners were left frustrated as they were held to a goal-less draw by second-tier Hull City in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Saturday, ahead of the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against the Catalan giants.

The combination of a fine display by Hull goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic and Arsenal's failure to make more of the chances that came their way meant the two teams must now face a replay.

"We need to be more efficient in the final third because we had more than 70 per cent possession and we will not get that on Tuesday against Barcelona," said Arsenal manager Wenger.

"So that means we will have to be more efficient because we will not have as much of the ball."

THE GAME PLAN

We need great solidarity because we need to defend well, we know that, and make sure we make the maximum of our possession.

ARSENE WENGER, Arsenal manager, on how his team need to play against Barca.

Arsenal are bidding to become the first club since the 19th century to win the FA Cup three years in a row.

"I was excited about the game against Hull but of course Tuesday is an exciting game," said the 66-year-old Frenchman.

"We won't be favourites on Tuesday night. So, on Tuesday night we need great solidarity because we need to defend well, we know that, and make sure we make the maximum of our possession."

Wenger made nine changes to his starting line-up and left Mesut Oezil and Aaron Ramsey out of the match-day squad altogether.

The manager revealed that Oezil had been suffering from a cold all week but insisted the Germany international would be fit to face Barcelona.

"I think I played a team that in my opinion had the quality to win the game and the Barcelona game was not in my mind," stressed Wenger.

"I rested Ramsey and Oezil because they have played many games from the start of the season and, when I can do it, I do it."

Hull manager Steve Bruce, whose side lost the 2014 FA Cup final to Arsenal and were knocked out of the tournament by the Gunners last season, made changes too for the tie and called for an end to replays in the competition.

Wenger, though, took the opposite view.

"Is a replay a nightmare? No. A nightmare would have been to go out," he said. "The frustration is not to score."

But Bruce, a three-time FA Cup winner as a Manchester United defender, said: "There is no more of a traditionalist than me when it comes to the FA Cup, but why can't we just go to penalties? Why do we have to have a replay?

"A footballer can play three games in three days if he wants but you can't play with the energy or intensity that you need to win a Championship game or an FA Cup tie."

An exasperated Bruce, whose team are top of the second-tier Championship, continued: "We have a game on Tuesday and then on Friday. Then the following Tuesday, then Friday again. It's ridiculous the number of games we have got coming up."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2016, with the headline 'We need to be more efficient: Wenger'. Print Edition | Subscribe