From Barcelona to Leyton Orient, Wenger's preparation is the same
Having come from a goal behind to beat the best club side in the world in thrilling fashion on Wednesday night in front of a global audience of tens of millions, Arsène Wenger's first thought the following morning was typical of him. He went to the office and watched a DVD of Leyton Orient's recent win over MK Dons.
The conquerors of Barcelona travel east to Orient's Matchroom Stadium tomorrow where there are no World Cup-winners or Fifa World Players of the Year lying in wait. But if Arsenal get it wrong, it is a potential FA Cup fifth-round giant-killing of monumental proportions. So even though Orient play their football in League One, Wenger was taking no chances.
He wants his team – still in contention to win the Champions League, the Premier League, the FA Cup and the Carling Cup – to chase the quadruple dream and he was not afraid to say yesterday that he thought they could win them all. "Look, we want to go for every single competition, I said that many times," Wenger said.
"How far can we go? I personally believe we can go to the end in every competition, but, we can, just as well, stop very quickly. It's just down to how much we believe and how much commitment we show. What I am convinced of is that we have the hunger and we have some talent, and we are all committed to go as far as we can."
Wenger has never lost an FA Cup tie to lower league opposition in almost 15 years at Arsenal and he was not about to take a win over Orient for granted. Far too shrewd to be caught out with the old trick question of whether he could name any Orient players, Wenger listed almost half the team including former Arsenal trainees Ben Chorley and Jason Crowe.
He was up early the morning after his team's 2-1 win over Barcelona to watch the footage of Orient's 3-2 victory in Milton Keynes on Tuesday. "We had the reports of the game, we watched them a little bit against MK Dons and so we always research about them. They have a good left-back, I have seen in the report, [Charlie] Daniels. They have a striker, [Alex] Revell, who looks dangerous.
"We will always look at our opponent. I always get up early even if I go to bed late. We watched 30 minutes of the first half and I will watch the rest [yesterday] afternoon."
Playing Barcelona and Orient in the space of five days was, Wenger said, "the charm of the game". He also has to rotate his team with the likes of Manuel Almunia, Tomas Rosicky, Denilson, Sébastien Squillaci and Marouane Chamakh all potential starters. The first-choice side will be required once again in the Premier League on Wednesday for the visit of Stoke City.
After Stoke there is the Carling Cup final a week tomorrow, followed by Sunderland at home in the league (5 March) and then Barcelona at the Nou Camp three days later. That this is an important period is putting it mildly. Arsenal could emerge from it with the Carling Cup in the bag, a place in the last eight of the Champions League and having cut Manchester United's four-point lead at the top of the Premier League, not to mention a place in the FA Cup quarter-finals.
"It is an important period but no matter what happens in the next two weeks, we can only think about the next game," Wenger said. "I never look backwards and never too far forward. The result of the next game can influence things. If you have a big disappointment, it will affect all the other games. You gain confidence slowly but lose it quickly.
Wenger promised, in his own words, Arsenal would "turn up with full cylinders", against Orient tomorrow. As for the disbelief at the ticket prices proposed by Uefa for the Champions League final at Wembley in May – the cheapest is £176 – he agreed that the governing body's financial fair play initiative should extend to ticket prices. "You have a supporter here with me but I don't fix the prices. It's very difficult to know how they do it. But, if you ask me, if it's free it's even better."
With respect, Orient's chairman Barry Hearn could hardly be expected to go that far. This is Orient's big payday, especially in terms of television revenue, and in many respects it is quite some test of Arsenal's ability to show they can handle the small fry as well as the big boys in the space of one week.
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