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Wenger admits the FA Cup is Arsenal’s best shot of silverware

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger lifts the 2005 FA Cup after defeating Manchester United. Photo: Rebecca Naden/PA Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger lifts the 2005 FA Cup after defeating Manchester United. Photo: Rebecca Naden/PA

Friday, February 15, 2013
11:57 AM

The FA Cup is Arsenal’s most reasonable chance of ending an eight-year wait for silverware, according to manager Arsene Wenger.

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The Gunners host Blackburn tomorrow in the fifth round aiming a avoid a first shock against lower league opposition in the Frenchman’s 17-year reign at the north London club.

The Premier League appears out of their reach as they’re 21 points off the pace while next week they face a tough Champions League tie against runaway Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich.

“We have more chances to do it than in the Premiership because we are too far away,” Wenger said.

“In the Champions League, I don’t know. We have a big game on Tuesday against Bayern. If we pass Bayern we could say why can’t we go on and win it.

“It looks at the start that the FA Cup is more reachable than any other competition.”

While Wenger’s Arsenal have never slipped up to lower league underdogs in the world’s oldest knockout competition, the memories are all too fresh that they fell victims to League Two Bradford City in the Capital One Cup earlier this term.

The Bantams were seconds away from beating them in normal time but eventually succeeded in their giant-killing mission in a penalty shoot-out – just one of their big league victims on the way to this month’s final at Wembley.

Wenger said he always takes the FA Cup seriously and that this has accounted for their good record in the competition.

“In 16 years I don’t think we’ve had upsets from teams in lower divisions,” he said.

“We had one against Bradford on penalties but we did take the game seriously. I said that after the game and I maintain that.

“We analysed very deeply what happened at Bradford [and what] we produced.

“We took this game really seriously, but in England it is like that.

“They’ve proven since that that they are a team of quality and we’ll take the game seriously tomorrow.

“Of course, there will be a huge desire to win it [the FA Cup].”

He added: “The FA Cup is an important target for us. We always take it very seriously, we’re on a good run and we want to continue the run.

“We are the favourites, they’re [Blackburn] the outsiders, and have nothing to lose.

“However, if you look at who is in the squad, many of their players have Premier League experience, that is why they are dangerous.”

Jack Wilshere is a doubt for the game after limping off at Sunderland last week with a thigh problem.

Wenger said: “I will not take a risk. [That is because of] the rest of the season in mind and what happened to him before.”

Captain Thomas Vermaelen should return from his ankle problem, but fellow centre back Laurent Koscielny (calf) will be assessed.

Ivory Coast forward Gervinho could be back in contention following the African Nations Cup.

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Arsenal

Nickname: The Gunners.

Ground: Emirates Stadium (capacity 60,361).

Founded: 1886.

Honours: First Division (until 1992) and Premier League: 1931, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1938, 1948, 1953, 1971, 1989, 1991, 1998, 2002, 2004.

FA Cup: 1930, 1936, 1950, 1971, 1989, 1991, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2005.

League Cup: 1987, 1993.

Fairs Cup: 1970.

Cup Winners’ Cup: 1994.

Leading goalscorer: Thierry Henry, 228.

Leading appearances: David O’Leary, 722.