FA Cup romance gives Wenger a headache
Wenger has seen past European campaigns run aground as his squad struggled to cope with the weight of the new year fixture list.sports Updated: Jan 05, 2008 12:06 IST
Arsene Wenger admits the FA Cup could jeopardise his hopes of winning the Champions League but the Arsenal manager is determined not to disrespect the competition's heritage.
Wenger who takes his team to Championship side Burnley on Sunday, has seen past European campaigns run aground as his squad struggled to cope with the weight of the new year fixture list.
The Frenchman has previously suggested the abolition of FA Cup replays in order to ease the burden on clubs involved in Champions League and UEFA cup runs - comments which led to Wenger being accused of treating the world's oldest cup competition with contempt.
But although Wenger plans to rest several of his first team regulars at Turf Moor, he has reiterated his "love" for the cup he has won four times in his Arsenal career and his desire to enjoy another Wembley success this season.
He said: "The FA Cup is certainly in conflict with the Champions League - with the number of replays you have if you don't go through first time and the fact they are always positioned in front of Champions League games, it is difficult.
"I am worried about the reaction to not playing my first team - that's why I want the side to be highly focused and win the game. If you don't play the team that people expect you to play and lose, you will be criticised. But then if you play the team people don't expect and you win, you get criticised as well.
"But I love the FA Cup and we all have a common desire to do well in every competition we play in. We will not sacrifice the competition - we are highly motivated and if we lose it is because we were beaten by the better team on the day.
"We want to keep the momentum going. We know the squad is good enough to win the game so let's just do that and win the match, whether it's the FA Cup, League Cup or whatever. We have been building momentum throughout the season and now we need to show our hunger in every competition."
Wenger is set to play Jens Lehmann at Turf Moor, with speculation mounting that the German is on the verge of leaving the Emirates stadium. Borussia Dortmund are poised to sign the veteran goalkeeper on a free transfer, with the Bundesliga club hopeful that a deal can be concluded next week.
Lassana Diarra, Nicklas Bendtner and Gilberto Silva have also suggested they are considering their futures due to a lack of first team football but Wenger is adamant the January transfer window will not prompt wholesale departures.
He added: "At the moment, I have to take care of the season. We are in a good position and we want to win every competition and for that we need a good squad.
"We have a good squad but a good one can become a bad one very quickly with injuries and suspensions. We have a lot of games to play and I have to be careful not to let too many players leave."
Appeasing unhappy internationals does not rank high on Burnley's list of concerns. The Lancashire club enter the meeting with Arsenal as overwhelming underdogs but manager Owen Coyle has told his players to banish any negativity from their minds against the Premier League leaders.
He said: "My players have all played in teams that achieved results as underdogs but equally we have all played in teams that were favourites and have lost out. We know both sides of it and we know it can happen.
"The only thing we are going to try and do is to be positive. It would be folly to be negative and try and stop Arsenal playing because ultimately they will unlock you at some point and win the game 1-0 or 2-0.
"I would rather contribute and try and win it by committing men forward. Better that than sit there and be negative."