Wenger looks for cup cheer against Leeds
Arsene Wenger is hoping Arsenal can recover from recent back to back cup shocks and overcome Championship highflyers Leeds United in Wednesday’s FA Cup third round replay.
It took a late penalty from Cesc Fabregas to deny the former Premier League giants a shock win in the first meeting of the two clubs at the Emirates Stadium and salvage Arsenal’s hopes of advancing in the competition.
And that disappointing display was followed by an even more underwhelming performance in the first leg of the League Cup semifinal with Ipswich when the struggling second-tier team clinched a single goal victory.
Wenger expects his team to progress in both competitions but any complacency the Premier League title challengers may have had at facing lower league opposition has been emphatically swept away.
Leeds performed exceptionally well on their trip to north London and, in front of a fervent home crowd at Elland Road, Wenger knows his team face a testing evening against the side currently lying fifth in the Championship.
Arsenal will head to Yorkshire with renewed confidence, however, following the comfortable 3-0 victory over West Ham United which prompted Wenger to once again declare his intent to challenge on all fronts, including the league and Champions League.
“Our success depends on the way the whole squad can focus on the different competitions,” he told Arsenal TV online.
“I believe we have the quality to qualify no matter what I do on Wednesday. It’s just how much we are able to focus on the competition.
“The timing is not the best but it is down to us because we could have beaten Leeds at home. We didn’t manage to do that but now there’s no reason why we should give up.
“I will prepare for this game to win it then we will see. It is important we go there with a positive attitude.”
Leeds manager Simon Grayson has been working hard to re-focus his side’s efforts on their attempts to sustain their challenge in the Championship promotion race since the first two teams’ first meeting.
Last year the newly-promoted club recorded a memorable third round victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford and promptly went off the boil in League One.
The 4-0 weekend victory over Scunthorpe suggested they have not suffered a similar problem this time around and Grayson is happy to train his thoughts on the visit of Wenger’s side.
“Now we can think about Arsenal and it will be a fantastic night for the players and the supporters,” said the highly-rated Grayson.
“We’re going to have to work ever so hard. We’re underdogs against a top team, but it’s a great opportunity and we’re looking forward to it.”
Leading scorer Luciano Becchio is a doubt after suffering a back injury against Scunthorpe but Grayson expects the forward to recover.
Sanchez Watt, currently on loan at Leeds from Arsenal, will again start having been given permission to feature in the first game and the 19-year-old is convinced he can shock his parent club.
“I didn’t think I was going to be able to play in the first game but when I found out I was, I got myself focused,” Watt said.
“I knew I had to have a good game - to show people I wasn’t holding back and I was giving my all.
“We’re going into the game with a lot of confidence and I hope we can win. I want to play to the best of my ability and I want to score.
“I want to show people that I can be a player and stay in this game for a long time.
“It’ll be strange if I score but I’ll be feeling good about the fact that I’ve got a goal against a great team and a great defence. I won’t celebrate but inside I’ll be happy.”
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