Arsenal v Coventry: Fabulous Arsenal form could be ruined by FA Cup exit, warns Wenger

Arsenal’s run would be at risk from Cup defeat to Coventry

Memories etched in sepia of a flawless Wembley pitch and a pearl-like ball, its surface devoid of laces, maintain their gentle pull on the heartstrings of Arsène Wenger. As a football-mad youth in Alsace-Lorraine, the annual FA Cup final broadcast was the staple that fostered his love of the English game.

The idea that he might take tonight’s engagement against fallen Coventry lightly insults his attachment to the grand old pot that did so much to fire the imagination of those looking through the May keyhole from afar, as well as bind this country to its national sport.

Arsenal are in, says Wenger, the “moment of a lifetime”, by which he means at an optimum point in the evolution of this team where anything is possible. Wenger would not want to ruin the moment by emulating the experience of last year when Arsenal were dumped out in the fifth round by Blackburn Rovers of the Championship.

“When you are on a run it is important not to interrupt it with a setback,” said Wenger. “That is what is at stake. Every win makes the team stronger and more confident. We do not want to be up and down and up and down. It is important we continue our consistent run. The team is growing in confidence. It is important not to question yourselves again, ‘are we good enough?’

“February is an important month where we play all the big teams so it is important to build up our strength and to trust our consistency. Last year’s [defeat] was a big disappointment. It was the first time in 16 years that we lost against lower-league opposition in the FA Cup. It was a great warning. At the moment it’s just our next game and we want to win it.”

The arrival of Coventry at the Emirates provides another nostalgic tweak to the Wenger landscape, and a reminder of the dangers of overexposure in the pursuit of footballing dreams. When he assumed the throne at Arsenal, Coventry were a Premier League opponent of some substance.

“I know much more than you think about Coventry City,” he said. “First of all, when I arrived here they were one of the good teams. I had many difficult games against them. We have to prepare seriously for this game. We want to gain respect, and through our attitude that is the best way to gain respect.”

The Frenchman’s attachment to the competition further endears him to football’s mother country. Delivered in his accented Wengerisms, his love of the oldest knockout competition in the game is a lesson in curation and restates the value of history and tradition which is often overlooked in these Champions League-heavy days.

“The only competition I could watch in France when I was a kid was the English FA Cup final. On black and white television, every year we saw the Cup final. That’s a very prestigious competition for me. It is true that maybe it does not have the glamour nowadays that it had in the Sixties and Seventies but it is still, for me, a very important competition.

“I just remember that I was always admiring Wembley’s pitch because I used to play on really bad pitches and the white ball, it was a dream to have this kind of ball. I played with a ball with laces at the time so that was always something special, too.”

The FA Cup remains the only major trophy won by Coventry, and it came against north London opposition. The victory against Tottenham in 1987 is still celebrated by members of the team, who gather episodically to toast the achievement. Though Coventry were in the top tier, they were the same heavy underdogs they are tonight.

The imbalance in power has not diminished the appetite for a game set for a full house, evidence according to Wenger of the growing power and attraction of his team. “It is just an indication of how big this club is,” he said. “I must say I have total respect that on a Friday night, people come to this game and that it is a sell-out. It is absolutely fantastic.”

Wenger spent last night poring over tapes of Coventry before finalising a line-up that will show one guaranteed change from the team that beat Fulham last Saturday with Lukasz Fabianski coming in between the sticks. There might also be a starting place for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain after six months out of the game with a knee injury.

Wenger does not believe the lay-off has disrupted the stellar march of one of England’s brightest prospects in World Cup year. “He is in advance of where every player of his age is,” he said. “He has just been handicapped by injury but is in a very strong position.”

 

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
Voices
Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
voices
News
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
Arts and Entertainment
Ella Henderson's first studio album has gone straight to the top of the charts
music
News
<p>Jonathan Ross</p>
<p>Jonathan Ross (or Wossy, as he’s affectionately known) has been on television and radio for an extraordinarily long time, working on a seat in the pantheon of British presenters. Hosting Friday Night with Jonathan Ross for nine years, Ross has been in everything from the video game Fable to Phineas and Ferb. So it’s probably not so surprising that Ross studied at Southampton College of Art (since rebranded Southampton Solent), a university known nowadays for its media production courses.</p>
<p>However, after leaving Solent, Ross studied History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, now part of the UCL, a move that was somewhat out of keeping with the rest of his career. Ross was made a fellow of the school in 2006 in recognition of his services to broadcasting.</p>
TV

Rumours that the star wants to move on to pastures new

Life and Style
fashion
News
Paul Nuttall, left, is seen as one of Ukip's key weapons in selling the party to the North of England
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Russell Brand labelled 'left-wing commie scum' by Fox News
TV
Arts and Entertainment
BBC's Antiques Roadshow uncovers a TIE fighter pilot helmet from the 1977 Star Wars film, valuing it at £50,000
TV

TV presenter Fiona Bruce seemed a bit startled by the find during the filming of Antiques Roadshow

News
people

Comedian says he 'never laughed as hard as I have writing with Rik'

Sport
Steven Caulker of QPR scores an own goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Queens Park Rangers and Liverpool
football
Arts and Entertainment
artKaren Wright tours the fair and wishes she had £11m to spare
News
i100
Life and Style
Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh been invited to take part in Women Fashion Power, a new exhibition that celebrates the way women's fashion has changed in relation to their growing power and equality over the past 150 years
fashionKirsty and Camila swap secrets about how to dress for success
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
booksNew book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past