Wenger leaning towards extension after big Cup win

Midfielder Aaron Ramsey walking in Arsenal's fifth goal against non-league Lincoln City in the FA Cup quarter-finals.
Midfielder Aaron Ramsey walking in Arsenal's fifth goal against non-league Lincoln City in the FA Cup quarter-finals.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Arsene Wenger revealed he has not ruled out extending his Arsenal reign after his side eased the pressure on him with a 5-0 FA Cup quarter-final win over minnows Lincoln.

He faced calls for his resignation from angry Arsenal fans last week and there were more protests against him before Saturday's clash at the Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal's comfortable progress to next month's Wembley semi-finals kept the critics off the Frenchman's back, days after their Champions League 1-5 loss to Bayern Munich at home on Tuesday.

The 67-year-old, who has yet to confirm if he will extend his contract when it runs out at the end of this season, said his preference was to remain in charge of the Premier League club, but he declined to say how much longer that would be for.

"Let's not talk about me too much because that has happened a lot recently. I have shown in my life that I try to serve this club with complete commitment and I will do that as long as I am here," he said. "How long? I don't know at the moment. I have shown a lot of loyalty and my preference is here. I focus on my job. I always do that. I let other people judge my performances."

Wenger, who has won the FA Cup six times, admitted that selecting a strong line-up for Saturday's game gave his players back their belief after the Champions League trauma.

Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud scored Arsenal's first two goals before Luke Waterfall's own goal made it 3-0. Further strikes from Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey sealed the win.

"We were a bit nervous because confidence drops when you don't have a result. The team was unjustly criticised after our last game against Bayern," said Wenger.

"I didn't want to gamble today. I knew it was very important to win and I wanted to give the team the chance to get their confidence back by winning the next game.

"That's why I retained 90 per cent of the players. I am happy that we won the game but I know that what is in front of us is more important."

While Arsenal look forward to a FA Cup semi-final and striving to secure a Champions League berth for the 18th successive season, Lincoln's own tilt at glory did not evaporate with the defeat.

Five points clear of their rivals at the top of the National League and seeking a return to the league after six seasons in the non-league wilderness, they face the FA Trophy semi-final first leg tomorrow in the more austere surroundings of York City's Bootham Crescent ground.

For Lincoln manager Danny Cowley, 38, the lessons learnt at Arsenal will be invaluable.

"We have to take a lot from our first-half performance. We restricted Arsenal to limited chances in that first 45 minutes and had a good one of our own," he said. "Unfortunately in the second half you saw what world-class players can do when they are confident."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 13, 2017, with the headline 'Wenger leaning towards extension after big Cup win'. Print Edition | Subscribe