Wenger acknowledges favourites tag

Published: Sunday 25th January 2015 by The News Editor

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Arsene Wenger admitted Arsenal are “one of the favourites” to win the FA Cup after the Gunners bucked the trend of fourth-round shocks at Brighton.

Theo Walcott, Mesut Ozil and Tomas Rosicky scored as Arsenal edged out Brighton 3-2 at the Amex Stadium, heeding the warnings of fourth-round defeats for Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham on Saturday.

Chris O’Grady and Sam Baldock struck as Chris Hughton’s side worried the holders, but manager Wenger was satisfied with his team’s effort.

“Look, I am on the other side of the game: you always want to know what will happen, and I always have to stop people from thinking what will happen, because nobody knows what will happen really,” said Wenger.

“But we’ll be one of the favourites, because I think Man United might go through and some of the other Premier League sides will go through.

“We’ll be among these teams but you cannot predict who will win it.

“With yesterday’s results you would be a bit cautious (about being favourites), the cup is the cup and what you want is the focus on the next round and to go through.

“We have good experience from last season to know that every round is different and the most difficult games were not especially the most expected ones last season.

“So let’s wait for the (fifth round) draw.

“Of course we fight and we want to retain our cup, but it’s too long to go to say that.”

Wenger confirmed Arsenal’s deal to bring Villarreal defender Gabriel Paulista to the Emirates is “on the line”, with the French manager expecting the formalities to be completed on Monday.

“It’s on the line, and nearly (done). I think it will get over the line tonight and tomorrow,” he added.

Wenger admitted he has never been blessed with such an array of fit and in-form attacking talents approaching the business end of a season at Arsenal.

The long-serving Gunners boss hailed the form of fit-again duo Walcott and Germany star Ozil, praising Czech midfielder Rosicky’s influence too.

“No never: at this period of the season, never,” said Wenger in reference to the strength of his attacking options.

“Last year we lost many players in January, and this year they come back because they’ve been out earlier.

“For a first game (for Walcott) it was encouraging, and Ozil as well.

“Maybe they dropped a little bit physically in the second half but overall they were ready.

“Tomas (Rosicky) was wonderful: a player we all love and if you love football, you love Rosicky.

“On top of that he’s a fantastic character. He scored and I’m very pleased for him.”

Chelsea’s 4-2 home defeat to Bradford and Manchester City’s 2-0 home loss to Middlesbrough have left the FA Cup draw wide open.

Spurs lost 2-1 to Leicester, while Manchester United must entertain League Two side Cambridge in a replay at Old Trafford.

Wenger admitted the glut of upsets focused Arsenal’s minds ahead of their Brighton clash.

“We have good momentum now but we must keep the urgency level very high; we know how quickly the momentum can die in football if you drop your quality,” said Wenger.

“The results yesterday were a big subconscious warning for us, it wakes you up a bit, and you think ‘okay it’s a Championship team’, but at the lower level now the players are prepared.

“They come out of the academies, do not make it in the Premier League but they are not far from it; they can maintain the pace for 90 minutes and in these kinds of ties they never give up.

“The first shock was not to believe it (Saturday’s results); you check twice the result, and then you think ‘oh, we are in a fight for tomorrow’s game as well’.”

Brighton boss Hughton believed his side should have had a late penalty when a cross hit Calum Chambers’ arm.

Hughton believes Arsenal are now tournament favourites after the weekend’s shocks.

“I did actually,” said Hughton, admitting he felt Brighton deserved a penalty.

“Having seen it again he does have an outstretched arm and generally these days the referees will see time and time again an incident where it’s that close, where it’s an outstretched arm where a penalty is given.

“I thought we showed great character against a very, very good Arsenal side.

“Yes I would expect them to be right up there and of course they had a very good day yesterday, with the might of Chelsea and Man City going out.

“So I would see they are right up there as favourites, perhaps with Manchester United.”

Published: Sunday 25th January 2015 by The News Editor

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