English FA Cup
February 16, 2013
Gunners ready for crucial week - Wenger
Manager Arsene Wenger accepts Arsenal are entering the defining period of their season, but sees no reason why his side should not be confident of winning the Champions League if they knock out Bayern Munich.
The Gunners host Blackburn in the fifth round of the FA Cup in the first of a run of games which will see them tackle the German giants while also facing Barclays Premier League rivals Tottenham and Everton in what could prove to be crucial for their hopes of breaking back into the top four.
When Arsenal return from the Allianz Arena on March 13, the outlook of their campaign could be still on course for success or with little other than wounded pride left to play for.
"You go into the period at the end of February and March when every game will define your season,'' said Wenger.
"The FA Cup is an important target for us. We always take it very seriously, we are on a good run and we want to continue the run.''
Wenger added: "We have a big game on Tuesday against Bayern. If we get past them, then why should we not go further and win it?
"It looks at the start that the FA Cup (trophy) is more reachable than any other competition, but you don't really know how difficult it will be.
"If you compare it to the Premier League certainly, we have more chances to do it because we are too far away in the Premier League.''
Wenger has enjoyed his own love affair with the FA Cup, winning the world's oldest knockout competition four times between 1998 and 2005.
The Arsenal manager is determined to avoid a second cup shock in the same season after crashing out of the Capital One Cup on penalties at Bradford.
"I always have to convince you that we take the competition seriously,'' he said.
"In 16 years I don't think we had (many) upsets against lower division teams, that shows that we take the competition seriously.
"We prepare for the game like a final every time, and that's why we have done reasonably well until now.
"We will take the game seriously again, and with a huge desire to win it.''
Arsenal have fitness concerns over England midfielder Jack Wilshere, who went off at Sunderland last week as a precaution over a thigh problem.
Captain Thomas Vermaelen should be back from his ankle problem, but fellow defender Laurent Koscielny (calf) will be assessed.
Ivory Coast forward Gervinho could be back in contention following the African Nations Cup.
Meanwhile, Michael Appleton believes the pressure is off Blackburn when they travel to the Emirates Stadium.
Rovers have enjoyed an upturn in fortunes since the former Portsmouth manager opted to leave Blackpool and succeed ex-Norway international Henning Berg in the Ewood Park hotseat.
The 1-1 draw with Brighton in midweek extended their unbeaten run to five matches and moved them up to eighth in the npower Championship table, six points off the final play-off place.
That streak includes a 3-0 away win over Derby that helped Appleton's side, relegated from the Barclays Premier League last term, earn a fifth-round tie against the Gunners.
With the pressure building on Rovers to try and earn promotion back to the top flight at the first attempt, Appleton insists the cup is a welcome distraction.
"I think it is certainly a weekend off in terms of the league fixtures,'' Appleton told the club's official website.
"With the FA Cup game on Saturday it does give us an opportunity to enjoy the match more than we would in a normal league game.''
However, with Arsenal currently on a five-match unbeaten run of their own, Appleton knows his players have a tough test on their hands.
"Three days after they play us they are going to play in a Champions League tie against a fantastic German side in Bayern Munich, so we know that the task is going to be very very difficult,'' he added.
"But we'll go there, we'll have a go and see if we can make a surprise.''
Blackburn will be without Josh Morris and DJ Campbell for the trip to London.
Midfielder Morris is cup-tied following his involvement in the earlier rounds while on loan at Rotherham and Campbell, borrowed from QPR, also featured for his parent club.
But Appleton could hand Lee Williamson his debut after the midfielder joined the club on a free transfer last week.
Jordan Rhodes broke his nose against Ipswich but was fit to feature in the draw at the Amex Stadium and is set to continue up front.
David Dunn's calf injury leaves him sidelined along with Joshua King, Grant Hanley (both hamstring), Leon Best and Dickson Etuhu (both knee).