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Friday, January 23, 2009
Wenger ready for "tricky" Cardiff FA Cup test

Arsene Wenger will not take the ''tricky'' trip to Cardiff City lightly on Sunday as Arsenal aim to keep themselves on course in the FA Cup.

The Gunners, who continue to track Zenit St Petersburg playmaker Andrei Arshavin, are expected to take a strong squad to Ninian Park, where former Bluebirds midfielder Aaron Ramsey looks set to face his old club.

Wenger will stick with his policy of rotation, mindful of already missing injured key men like captain Cesc Fabregas and England winger Theo Walcott.

However, as in the last round, the Gunners boss will show the competition the respect he feels it deserves rather than field a team of teenagers, as he does in the Carling Cup.

''[Goalkeeper] Lukasz Fabianski will play because it is the FA Cup, maybe one or two others will come in too,'' Wenger said.

''The team will be comparable to the side which played against Plymouth.''

The Gunners boss declared: ''It is a tricky cup tie and we want to come out on top.''

Ramsey admits he will have ''mixed emotions'' when he returns to Ninian Park, but the Wales midfielder is fully focused on helping Arsenal get to Wembley.

The 18-year-old came through the Bluebirds' youth ranks and was part of the team beaten by Portsmouth in last season's final.

It was his last appearance in Cardiff colours before joining Arsenal in a 5million move during the summer.

Ramsey made his debut in the Champions League qualifier away to Steve McClaren's FC Twente, and Wenger is delighted with the youngster's progress, with some 15 appearances now under his belt.

''Cardiff was a big part of my life. I was there for a long time,'' Ramsey said.

''I came through the youth system there and went on to get into the first team, so it will be mixed emotions for me on Sunday - but I am an Arsenal player now and I want to win the game.''

Defender William Gallas (hamstring) is not yet in contention, while full-back Gael Clichy must serve a one-match ban.

Eduardo has claimed he is ''ready for the first team'' after stepping up his rehabilitation following another run-out with the reserves, when he completed a full 90 minutes at Stoke.

However, Wenger may not rush to recall the striker, whose leg was broken horrifically at Birmingham last season.

The end of the Gunners' drawn-out chase of Arshavin, meanwhile, could soon draw to a successful conclusion as the clubs move closer to agreeing a fee.

''We are certainly conducting negotiations directly with the Arsenal chief executive,'' Zenit general director Maksim Mitrofanov said.

''It is not simple, but it is moving and we hope that it will lead to its logical conclusion.''

While the Arshavin saga has been played out in the media said Wenger intends to keep his own counsel until the deal is concluded one way or another as talks between the parties continue.

''It is in the newspapers, but not from our side. We are quiet and we know what we want to do,'' Wenger told Arsenal TV Online. ''We will keep that as quiet as possible and for as long as we can.''

The Gunners boss feels should the transfer not come off, then such public statements of the ins and outs of the negotiations could result in a backlash from the fans.

''It is difficult because I believe when it does not work, it can turn against them or against us,'' said Wenger.

''You have to accept that in the transfer market, sometimes you go for a player and that sometimes it happens, and sometimes it doesn't happen. But I am very happy with the squad I have and will only add someone who can ive us something special.

''For the rest I have good players and believe strongly in them. Should we not get what we want, we will accept it as well because I believe we are strong enough with what we have.''

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