Arsenal lifting the FA Cup can be a 'turning point' for the club says Mikel Arteta, and Bayern Munich loss can be the springboard
Spaniard targets Premier League and FA Cup glory after Champions League exit in Germany
As they left the Allianz Arena on Tuesday night, the mood among those Arsenal players who lingered to talk was that, when it came, the endgame to their Champions League elimination at the hands of Bayern Munich was not as brutal as it might have been.
For Mesut Özil, who scarcely looked up from the two mobile phones he was carrying as he made his way out, his was the worst personal outcome given his ineffective first half and subsequent hamstring injury.
For many of his team-mates, a 1-1 draw on the night represented a dignified bowing out compared to what might have been at a club who had not previously been limited to one goal at home since 28 September.
"Every team that has come here recently has been battered 5-0 or 6-0," Mikel Arteta said, "so that's the last thing you want with the experience we had a couple of weeks ago at Liverpool. I think it's encouraging. I think the second-half performance was very good. We can take a lot of positives from that. And the way we keep them pretty quiet as well. Those [Bayern] players..."
He trailed off to remind himself that there were positives, although he left you in no doubt that it is not just those who watch the current Bayern team from the stands who hold the class of 2014 in a certain awe.
Having been eliminated from a competition that they had little realistic hope of winning, Arsenal's focus narrows upon their two last prospects of success – and one in particular in which they are the runaway favourites.
Asked what winning the FA Cup would mean to Arsenal, Arteta's answer was blunt – and this from a man who has only been around for two of their eight seasons without a trophy. "I think it would be a turning point for the club," he said. "Because for such a long time we haven't won anything. It gives you a lift, gives you belief that you can start to go in the right direction and hopefully we can do it.
"You're right that we have a great chance. There is still a month to go until the semi-final and some really tough games coming up. That's why it is important to get some momentum for that moment and get there with the belief and in good form."
Once more, Arsenal find themselves at a crossroads in their season. They are within touching distance of their first trophy in what would be nine years and in a strong position in the league. But they have injuries too, to Özil now, as well as those already out: Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey among them.
The burden of European football is gone but they are also stretched after a January transfer window in which they were not strengthened beyond the injured Kim Kallstrom.
On Sunday they face Tottenham with the benefit of two nights' extra rest over their old enemies, who play Benfica tonight. It could yet prove to be a pivotal game at White Hart Lane for both teams.
It was there little more than a year ago that Arsenal lost 2-1 to Spurs before winning 2-0 in Munich (but losing the tie) and then embarked on a season-saving unbeaten run that saw them claim fourth place on the last day.
This time around they have to play away at Spurs, Chelsea and Everton – as well as face Swansea and Manchester City at home – before they play Wigan Athletic at Wembley on 12 April.
Beyond the FA Cup semi-final, the remaining league games of the season are looking much kinder to Wenger's players. Should they still be in the top four by the time they face Wigan, it would be difficult to see them being dislodged from the Champions League places.
It is not inconceivable that Arsenal could yet mount a challenge for the league title, although it is evident where their best chance of a trophy lies. "We have two competitions that we are still in," Arteta said. "We want to fight for the league and we have a great chance in the FA Cup as well. So we need to enjoy the moment and make the most of it because I think we can do something good. We know we are favourites at the moment [for the Cup]. We know that puts more pressure on us"
Last season, the win in Munich was the launch-pad for Arsenal's recovery, from being fifth and five points off fourth place. This year, their form has been much more stable in the league but it is the potential for success in the FA Cup that the club cannot afford to squander.
Bayern face sanction over banners
Uefa has opened disciplinary proceedings against Bayern Munich for discriminatory behaviour by supporters during Tuesday night's Champions League match with Arsenal, and for the display of an "illicit banner" by fans.
One banner seen at the match referred to the campaign to have Kosovo officially recognised by Fifa. The other contained offensive words and images directed towards Arsenal.
Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia six years ago, is not a member of Fifa or Uefa but is allowed to play friendlies against other nations provided no national symbols, including flags, are displayed or anthems played.
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