With the elimination of Manchester City and Chelsea, reigning champions Arsenal will go into their FA Cup fourth round clash against Brighton, knowing that theyai??i??re not only favourites for the tie but also the competition as a whole.
Whatai??i??s more, the Gunners go into the contest on the back of an inspired performance at the Etihad Stadium where they registered a stunning 2-0 win.
Yet, taking their upcoming opponents for granted is not something that Arsene Wenger is prepared to do.
“We have to study them well,” Wenger told ESPN. Ai??”In the cup, you have to be ready from the start and people like that can always surprise you if you are not ready.”
Two years ago, Wengerai??i??s team had met Brighton at the same stage and were put through quite a test. At the time, the Seagulls were being managed by Gus Poyet and the team was in good form, fighting for a place in the playoffs.
“It is always difficult in the Championship away from home,” Wenger said. “We remember Brighton from a couple of years ago. It was a very difficult game against a team who were on the way up — they were fighting at the top level with Gus Poyet. We needed to dig deep to get out with a positive result.”
After putting Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott on the bench in the clash against City, Wenger is expected to bring them into the starting line-up as they continue to regain match fitness after lengthy spells on the injury sidelines.
Another player who could be back in the team after being dropped following a smoking incident in the dressing room is Wojciech Szczesny. The goalkeeper last played in the Gunnersai??i?? 2-0 defeat against Southampton at St. Maryai??i??s.
By winning the title last year, the team ended a nine year title drought for the club and the players appear determined to keep hold of the trophy. Full-back Kieran Gibbs described what it was like winning the cup last year and reiterated the importance of the competition.
“If you ask any of the players in our dressing room if they want to experience that again, they will all say yes,” Gibbs wrote in his blog on Sportlobster.com. “They all want to keep hold of the FA Cup, so it will be another big test for us this weekend against a Brighton side which would love to cause an upset.