Football: Wenger focused on taming Hornets

Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud is back among the goals after his brace against Hull. The Frenchman will look to continue his scoring form against Watford to bring the Gunners to Wembley for the semi-finals.
Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud is back among the goals after his brace against Hull. The Frenchman will look to continue his scoring form against Watford to bring the Gunners to Wembley for the semi-finals. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Arsenal manager still believes in title chances but is concentrating on his side's next game

LONDON • Arsene Wenger has told his Arsenal stars to show more consistency as the FA Cup holders try to get their spluttering season back on track in today's quarter-final against Watford.

The Gunners host the Hornets at a time when they are languishing eight points behind leaders Leicester City in the Premier League and teetering on the brink of another tame Champions League exit.

On Wednesday, Arsenal must overturn a two-goal first-leg deficit in the Champions League against holders Barcelona at the Nou Camp to avoid crashing out of Europe's elite club competition.

Most Arsenal supporters would admit the FA Cup represents by far their most realistic chance of silverware after winning it for the last two seasons, but Wenger refuses to rule out a dramatic turn of fortunes both at home and abroad.

"I haven't given up on the Premier League at all - and I've said that many times - nor the Champions League," the Frenchman said.

"We have to take care of the next minute and the next minute is an FA Cup game.

"Is it the best chance to win a trophy? It's still far away. We must win the next game and prove that we can show consistency again."

Losing Aaron Ramsey to injury for the rest of the campaign would be a major blow to any renewed challenge in the league, but Wenger remains adamant that his season is not at an end.

The Wales midfielder suffered a thigh injury in Tuesday's 4-0 FA Cup fifth-round replay win at Hull, just 15 minutes after coming off the bench in the second half.

When asked whether Ramsey's season was over Wenger insisted: "I don't believe that. At the moment his clinical signs are quite positive. I would say four weeks.

Per Mertesacker and fellow centre-back Gabriel also suffered injuries against Hull with Laurent Koscielny already sidelined.

"Mertesacker came off injured but should be available, while Koscielny is not far," Wenger added.

The Arsenal manager would, however, be buoyed by his strikers rediscovering their form.

In the past two weeks, Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott, Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck have re-established an eye for goal, and Wenger is hoping that will make a difference.

"It is a weight on the shoulders when the players don't score," he said.

"Giroud has cycles so it was a weight off his shoulders. Walcott too, and it's the same for Alexis as well who scored against Tottenham.

"He suffers maybe more than everybody when he doesn't score."

Arsenal beat Watford 3-0 at Vicarage Road in October but the Hornets' utility man Ikechi Anya believed his side were hard done by on that occasion.

"When we played them at home it was a false result, we were very much in the game," he said.

"I'm sure with the strikers we've got, at the Emirates, hopefully we take our chances and we can attack them from the get-go.

"We're only one win away from Wembley. That's a great incentive for us, and we're all looking forward to it."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

ARSENAL V WATFORD

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 13, 2016, with the headline 'Wenger focused on taming Hornets'. Print Edition | Subscribe