After arguably the worst season in Arsene Wenger’s 21 year tenure as Arsenal manager, the last hope for any success this season is the FA Cup, a competition of which the Frenchman is extremely fond.
The Gunners have the tied best record in the competition, having lifted the most famous trophy in association football on 12 occasions, a record only matched by Manchester United when they were crowned champions under Louis van Gaal last season.
Of the 12 won by the north Londoners, Wenger has been responsible for six of them, more than any other manager in English football. With that in mind, there is a clear case for Premier League form to be thrown out the window when Wenger’s side take on Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in the semi-final at Wembley on Sunday afternoon.
With London rivals Tottenham and Chelsea facing off in the first of the two semi-finals on Saturday evening, it will be down to Sunday’s clash to decide the final spot in the final on 27th May.
The two sides have only faced off three times in the history of the Cup, with the most recent being an Arsenal win in 1971, so there is little precedent to go off here, especially in terms of a semi-final.
It has been a torrid season for Gunners fans, who are now resting all their hopes on Sunday’s clash with Guardiola’s side and, whilst their form in 2017 has been worse than many fans will be able to remember, it should not have a bearing ahead of the tie.
As mentioned, Wenger’s record in the competition stands alone and it is something he will be desperate to continue this season. Whilst their recent games in the Premier League have been crucial in terms of keeping them in the race for the top four, a huge focus will have been placed on this weekend for many weeks now.
Wenger and his staff, for all the criticism and, in some cases, abuse that has been thrown their way this season, will have made the importance of this competition abundantly clear to their players – Sunday’s game is a one-off.
There is a weight of expectation on the shoulders of any Arsenal player, an expectation that clearly has not been met this term, and for many seasons before this. With talk of a summer overhaul being just around the corner there are few in the squad who will feel totally safe, meaning futures are up for grabs as the club look to build a side capable of turning up on the biggest of occasions.
Beating Manchester City is of course a tough ask for any side, however, with many having billed Sunday’s game as a foregone conclusion given what has happened this season, it is a game away from league and European troubles, it could well be the defining game of the season.