Arsenal must continue their fine form in the FA Cup if they are to beat current holders Wigan Athletic in the semi-finals at Wembley on Saturday, manager Arsene Wenger said on Thursday.
Arsenal have reached the last four for a record-equalling 27th time after impressive wins over Tottenham Hotspur, Coventry City, Liverpool and Everton, and with Hull City, Sheffield United and Wigan remaining, they are favourites to win the competition for the 11th time.
Their Cup form is in contrast to their dismal league form which has seen them win two of their last nine games and slide down the table from top to fourth.
They now face a buoyant Championship side in Wigan, who stunned Manchester City in last year’s final and then beat them again in this season’s quarter-finals.
As well as ending City’s interest with a 2-1 win in the sixth round last month, they have also seen off Premier League sides Crystal Palace and Cardiff City in their bid to become only the sixth club in the last 123 years to retain the trophy.
“We play against an opponent that has done well in this competition,” Wenger told reporters at the club’s training ground at London Colney.
“They have beaten Man City at Man City so we want to focus on that and make sure we can go through.
“You win when you produce a quality performance. We have, in this competition, produced top quality performances so let’s continue with that.
“We have a team who has a lot of experience. For us what is very important is to win the semi-final and it’s important we focus on that.”
Arsenal have injury concerns over Kieran Gibbs, Tomas Rosicky and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, while Mesut Ozil and Laurent Koscielny have both been ruled out.
Midfielder Aaron Ramsey will start his first game in four months after a substitute appearance against Everton last week following his recovery from a thigh problem and Wenger believes injuries to vital players have crippled his side throughout the campaign.
“This season we lost key players at big important moments of the season,” continued Wenger, who has suffered defeat in his last two visits to Wembley, losing to Chelsea in the 2009 FA Cup semi-final and to Birmingham City in the 2011 League Cup final.
“But we have to just to focus on finishing as well as we can. We are in a position where we can still do very well until the end of the season, that is what we want.”
After a dismal 3-0 defeat by Everton in the Premier League on Sunday, Arsenal’s grip on a top four finish appears to be loosening, Everton now trail Wenger’s side by a single point and have a game in hand.
But the Frenchman refused to be drawn on whether he would take a top four finish over winning the FA Cup, claiming a first trophy since 2005 in the process.
“I will not choose, what is important after our performance against Everton is to respond well,” added Wenger who won the FA Cup four times in his first nine seasons at Arsenal to become the second most successful FA Cup manager in modern times after Alex Ferguson.
But Wenger is more concerned with what is coming rather than what has gone before.
“That’s where our future lies, it’s in our capacity to respond with a strong performance. That is the next game and the next game is the FA Cup.”
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