Arsenal look to jump back on track vs. revenge-seeking Hull City
Manager Arsene Wenger would not have walked out on Arsenal if they had lost the FA Cup final last season, and is determined to do all he can to deliver another open-top bus parade around Islington in the summer.
The Gunners host Hull City on Sunday (live, FOX Sports 1, 12:30 p.m. EST) in a repeat of what was a dramatic clash at Wembley in the May sunshine, when Wenger’s side battled back from trailing 2-0 inside eight minutes to win with a stoppage-time goal from Aaron Ramsey which ended a nine-year quest for some silverware. Wenger went on to sign a new deal following his side’s Wembley triumph, the euphoria which greeted it having seen the Arsenal players on their knees at the final whistle and then some 250,000 supporters turn the streets around the Emirates Stadium into a sea of red and white as the French coach held aloft the famous old trophy once again.
The Arsenal manager, though, insists quitting was never on his mind, no matter what the outcome had been that afternoon some eight months ago.
"Walk away? No. I have just won my 600th game out of 1,000 — that means I have won 60 percent of the games and after 18 years, you would not be serious to walk away for losing one game. I do my job as well as I can and I respect my contract," said Wenger. "It (sense of relief) was because we didn’t win a trophy for years and people want that."
He added: "Also, after being 2-0 down after 10 minutes and they nearly scored the third goal, you know that you have very little chances of winning, so the fact that we were 2-0 down and turned it around was a fantastic relief. It was nice to see our fans happy and it shows you how happy the club is when you win. We want another cup run and we want to, if possible, keep the trophy. We have won it five times in my period (in charge) so that means we know the importance that it has."
Wenger continued: "It is a great memory, but we have a big job to do on Sunday and (after) come back in the Premier League, then we have the Champions League. What is for sure is that we have room for improvement and we have to manage to do that quickly."
With on-going injury problems and the suspension of forward Olivier Giroud, Wenger has few options to rotate his squad. Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina is set to stand in for Wojciech Szczesny, who made errors in both of the goals as Arsenal were beaten at Southampton on New Year’s Day, while Theo Walcott is expected to make a long-awaited start in attack. German playmaker Mesut Ozil is close to a return from his knee injury, but will not be rushed.
Injuries are also a concern for Steve Bruce’s side come Sunday. Hull City head into Sunday’s fixture with confidence having picked up crucial Premier League wins over Sunderland and Everton over the festive period though will probably be without the services of Abel Hernandez (fatigue), Gaston Ramirez (groin), Liam Rosenior (hamstring) and Andrew Robertson (ankle) adding to an injury list featuring Mohamed Diame (knee) centerback Michael Dawson (hamstring).
Yet the Tigers are still upbeat about their chances at the Emirates. Hull’s captain Curtis Davies is relishing the prospect of beginning this year’s FA Cup campaign with a repeat of the 2014 final against Arsenal. The centerback admits Hull are on something of a revenge mission, even if he does not think such thoughts will be occupying their minds during the game.
"You do have, in the back of your mind, that thought that they killed my dream and made me cry," he said. "But when you go into the game, the whole idea of revenge goes out the window."
That means he will be forced to make changes against Arsenal, although the manager stressed the importance of the game. "In certain departments, it will have to be a different side," Bruce told reporters. "I’ll see what bodies I’ve got. But we’re playing Arsenal in a big cup-tie."