Football: Familiar foes for Arsenal's Arsene Wenger

Arsene Wenger hopes to win the FA Cup three years in a row, with Arsenal facing Hull in the fifth round today. The Gunners fought back after trailing 0-2 to beat Hull 3-2 in the 2014 final.
Arsene Wenger hopes to win the FA Cup three years in a row, with Arsenal facing Hull in the fifth round today. The Gunners fought back after trailing 0-2 to beat Hull 3-2 in the 2014 final.PHOTO: REUTERS

Beating Hull crucial to momentum for big clash against Barca, says Arsenal boss

LONDON • As Arsene Wenger prepares to take charge of his 100th FA Cup game with Arsenal, the Frenchman revealed that winning the competition in 2014 arguably saved his job.

The Gunners came from 0-2 down to beat Hull 3-2 in the final at Wembley two years ago and face the second-tier side again in the fifth round today.

Prior to that decider, Wenger had not delivered a trophy in nine years. His contract then was also due to expire that summer.

"It was up in the air and we had to give everything to win that final and after to reflect," he told a press conference yesterday.

"If we had lost it I don't know. Usually I respect my contracts and I fight for everything and to say after 17 years can depend just on one Cup final means it is better you don't go to the final then.

  • FA CUP 5TH ROUND TODAY

  • Arsenal v Hull City (II)
    Ch109, 8.35pm

    Reading (II) v West Bromwich Albion
    Ch110, 10.50pm

    Watford v Leeds United (II)
    Ch109, 10.50pm

    Bournemouth v Everton
    Ch109, tomorrow, 1.05am

    TOMORROW
    Blackburn Rovers (II) v West Ham United
    Ch109, 9.50pm

    Tottenham Hotspur v Crystal Palace
    Ch110, 10.50pm

    Chelsea v Manchester City
    Ch109, 11.50pm

    TUESDAY

    Shrewsbury Town (III) v Manchester United
    Ch109, 3.45am

    All on Singtel TV

    * Roman numerals denote division of non-English Premier League clubs

"It would have been a problem if we had not won. But we won."

The victory marked something of a key staging post for an emerging Arsenal side. Now they are bidding to become the first side since the 19th century to win the FA Cup three years in a row, after thrashing Premier League rivals Aston Villa 4-0 in last year's final.

Third-placed Arsenal are also just two points behind Premier League leaders Leicester, as they chase their first title since 2004.

But although it would appear to help a leading club such as Arsenal, Wenger disagrees with plans to scrap Cup replays amid speculation the Premier League and the Football Association are drawing up proposals to do away with such games.

"I am now vaccinated against the FA rules. After such a long time, I have become very conservatively English," said the FA Cup's joint most successful manager alongside George Ramsay, having lifted the trophy six times.

"I am quite a bit nervous about changing the rules because I like them now, I believe as well it looks like we always get more money and want to play less games. That is a little bit of a contradiction.

"I am convinced all of the clubs can compete with the number of games we have to play, so there is no real need for me to change the rules. This is the most traditional competition in England, so let's respect it and keep it as it is."

Arsenal face Barcelona in the first leg of their last-16 Champions League tie on Tuesday, and Wenger may rest a couple of first-team players. Still, he was in no doubt about the importance of beating Hull.

"For me it's an important game," he added. "The best way to prepare for Barcelona is to beat Hull tomorrow. The momentum is important and we have to show that mentally we are capable of winning by focusing on every single game."

Hull manager Steve Bruce, however, has made it clear that he will make significant changes to his side as they prioritise their attempts to gain promotion to the Premier League. The Tigers currently lead the Championship with 60 points from 31 matches.

"We've got big, big games coming up," said Bruce, whose side's next three league opponents are all in the top eight.

This is the third straight season in which Hull was drawn to face Arsenal in the competition and Bruce will be hoping for a different outcome today.

"We could've picked an easier one, couldn't we?" he joked.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

ARSENAL V HULL CITY

Singtel Ch109, 8.35pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 20, 2016, with the headline 'Familiar foes for Wenger'. Print Edition | Subscribe