Wigan v Arsenal: Arsene Wenger warms to dream of the 'winnable' FA Cup - but first they must navigate Wembley semi-final

The Gunners face Wigan in this weekend's semi-finals where Aaron Ramsey will make his first start since Boxing Day

Arsène Wenger returns to the FA Cup semi-finals on Saturday, for the first time in five years, and believes it is one of the most open competitions in world sport. Wenger has won the Cup four times, but has often been portrayed as not caring much about the world's oldest football competition.

At his press conference, though, ahead of Saturday's game with the holders Wigan Athletic, Wenger spoke with real enthusiasm about the competition and his commitment to it.

For years the French manager has had to balance the demands of qualifying for the Champions League with aiming for silverware and, while he does not regret prioritising the league, he insisted in the strongest possible terms that trophies motivate him.

"The Champions League was vital for us, with survival at the top until now so, for me, it was the minimum requirement at the start of the season," Wenger explained. "But don't imagine I sacrifice every day of my life not to win a trophy. Everybody fights for that."

Despite Arsenal's recent struggles – this will be their first FA Cup semi-final since 2009 – Wenger's career shows an obvious commitment to the competition, which he won in 1998, 2002, 2003 and 2005. He explained that the openness and winnability of the FA Cup made it so special.

"If you are in the FA Cup everyone can dream of winning it at the start of the season," he said. "The championship – maybe six or seven clubs can dream of winning it at the start of the season. [The Cup] is a dream open to everybody and that is the beauty of the FA Cup. Last year Wigan won it, this year you have Sheffield United in the semi-final and that kind of dream open to everybody makes the competition special.

"Because in the championship you can talk and talk and talk, but we know the biggest budget will win the championship, and nobody else, so that open dream is what makes this competition special."

This is not just because of the format, but the nature of the sport. Football allows more upsets than almost any other team game. "Only in football, because if you play basketball or rugby – any other sport – you cannot open the dream to other people other than the top teams," Wenger said. "In basketball if you play against a team from Division Two there is absolutely no chance unless you give them 30 points. Only our sport can create that excitement because it is uncertain."

If Arsenal win, they will play their first FA Cup final since 2005, when they beat Manchester United on penalties, in a game Wenger now admits they "did not deserve to win". Arsenal played unusually defensively to shut out a superior United side. "It was the only way we could win it."

Aaron Ramsey will make his first start since Boxing Day, while Mathieu Flamini is suspended.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones