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Rediff.com  » Sports » FA Cup PHOTOS: Arsenal favourites but wary of pitfalls

FA Cup PHOTOS: Arsenal favourites but wary of pitfalls

May 15, 2014 10:55 IST

FA Cup PHOTOS: Arsenal favourites but wary of pitfalls

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Arsenal will need no reminder of the pitfalls in store for them at Wembley Stadium on Saturday where they will be favourites to beat Hull City in the FA Cup final and claim their first silverware for nine years.

Three years ago Arsene Wenger's side were also expected to beat Birmingham City in the League Cup final but a late goal by Obafemi Martins after a calamitous defensive mix-up ruined the script and prolonged the fans' suffering.

Since then manager Arsene Wenger's long reign at the club has occasionally been questioned by even some of his most loyal disciples, with some advocating a change of direction.

Arsenal's annual qualification for the Champions League, now standing at 17 seasons, continues to justify the club hierarchy's faith in the wily Frenchman, although every year that passes without a trophy appears to add another wrinkle to Wenger's face.

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Image: Arsene Wenger of Arsenal looks on during a training session ahead of the FA Cup Final match between Arsenal and Hull City
Photographs: Clive Mason/Getty Images

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'Our target is to win the trophies'

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Wenger has been at pains to play down the significance of Saturday's result, saying it will have no bearing on his ongoing contract discussion, but the 64-year-old is fooling no one as Arsenal bid for a record-equalling 11th FA Cup.

Defeat by a Hull side appearing in their first FA Cup final would re-open the debate about his future.

Victory, following a fourth-placed finish in the Premier League having challenged strongly for the title for two thirds of the season, would reinforce the belief that Wenger is still the man to mastermind a golden new era for the Gunners.

"Our target is to win the trophies but you judge the quality of the teams and their potential over the Premier League results," Wenger, who won the Cup with Arsenal in 1998, 2002, 2003 and 2005, told a news conference on Wednesday.

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Image: Jack Wilshere of Arsenal stretches during a training session
Photographs: Clive Mason/Getty Images

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Buoyant Arsenal

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Having finished the Premier League season with five consecutive victories and Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey back from injury, Arsenal will be buoyant as they prepare to face Steve Bruce's Hull, but not complacent.

"To be favourites doesn't guarantee you anything," Wenger, whose side have beaten Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and Everton en route to the final, said.

"It just means if you turn up on the day of the game with a good performance you have more chance of winning.

"I don't believe we need any warning. We know that a final is a final, that Hull are a Premier League team, they can pass the ball, they can create chances. It's just down to us to perform well on the day of the game."

While Arsenal are preparing for their 18th FA Cup final, Hull's previous best performance in the competition was a semi-final appearance in 1930 when they lost to Arsenal in a replay.

The Gunners went on to win their maiden FA Cup with a 2-0 victory over Huddersfield Town in the final.

In their 110-year history Hull have never won anything other than the Division Three title in 1966.

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Image: Laurent Koscielny of Arsenal in action during a training session
Photographs: Clive Mason/Getty Images

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Wenger concerned by high managerial turnover

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Arsene Wenger's longevity as Arsenal's manager appears even more remarkable in the light of more Premier League sackings this week and the Frenchman says the revolving door policy rife among England's clubs is worrying.

With his eye fixed on this weekend's FA Cup final against Hull City, where he is attempting to end a nine-year Arsenal trophy drought, Wenger reflected on the departures of Tim Sherwood and Pepe Mel from Tottenham Hotspur and West Bromwich Albion respectively.

Sherwood was sacked by north London rivals Tottenham five months after replacing Andre Villas-Boas and with the best win percentage of any Spurs manager in the Premier League.

Spaniard Mel, whose side narrowly avoided relegation, was the second West Brom manager to lose his job this season after Steve Clarke lost his job in December.

"For me if it's a Tottenham manager or any other manager it's always sad news when somebody loses his job," Wenger, who has outlasted 10 permanent Tottenham managers since taking over at Arsenal in 1996, told a news conference.

"The only thing that looks a bit worrying is that the speed of the rotation level in the Premier League gets quicker and quicker. That's not a very good sign for the Premier League."

While Arsenal have not added to their collection of silverware since winning the FA Cup in 2005, the club has been a model of stability with 17 consecutive qualifications for the Champions League to show for it.


Image: Arsene Wenger of Arsenal looks on during a training session
Photographs: Clive Mason/Getty Images

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