Jan Molby

Huge pressure on silverware-starved Arsenal to avoid usual February fail

Jan Molby

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There is no getting away from the fact that this weekend will be absolutely huge for Arsenal with their FA Cup fifth-round tie against Liverpool.

The fact that Arsene Wenger’s side are at home and have been without any silverware for almost nine years now puts enormous pressure on the Gunners to deliver against a Liverpool side that will have nothing to lose.

As an Arsenal fan you have got to be fearful. With a massive Champions League clash against Bayern Munich to follow three days later, Wenger is left with some very tricky decisions.

The Bayern tie looks to be one that they cannot win, so it would be understandable if Arsenal decide to prioritise the FA Cup and seek to end that torturous silverware drought.

Arsenal have seemed a very weary side of late, as though they are carrying around a big weight of expectation and pressure; Liverpool, meanwhile, have been playing with a wonderful freedom and confidence.

Wenger’s team selection is going to be very interesting indeed in terms of what he wishes to prioritise and this week he could define the rest of the season for his side with key trophies now very much on the line.

Liverpool’s team picks itself at the moment and the fact that Brendan Rodgers does not have to worry about anything but ticking along in the league and attacking the cups with relish can only benefit the approach his players will have.

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It says a lot about where Arsenal are at right now that, despite saying that they are the top team who most need to win the FA Cup, Wenger would probably be the last to face any repercussions if his side do not deliver again.

Having spent £42m on Mesut Ozil, finally spending big; having staggeringly expensive season tickets; and having neglected to sign a much-needed second striker for the third transfer window in succession – the excuses will not be there for Arsenal.

Every February we all wait for Arsenal to slip away and it could be that way yet again. Liverpool have to be the clear favourites for this tie the way they are playing and given how they exploited Arsenal’s lack of pace in their recent league match.

Wenger gets away with not winning trophies every time, but in sharp contrast this is a trophy that Manuel Pellegrini could well need to win if he is unable to steer his expensively-assembled City side to the Premier League title.

Pellegrini cannot afford to be outfoxed by Jose Mourinho again on Saturday but I predict that Chelsea will rotate their squad and rest a few key players which could really help City’s cause – particularly given the fact that they are at home.

This is a very big game for City, who simply must not lose to Chelsea again, and Pellegrini must find a way of responding to his critics with Mourinho no doubt very keen to again show that he is the top boss in England.

[Manchester City v Chelsea: Saturday 17:15]

[Arsenal v Liverpool: Sunday 16:00]

[Full FA Cup fifth-round fixture list]

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By Jan Molby

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