Arsenal may not have won the Premier League title since 2004 and are unlikely to clinch it this season, but the Gunners have an enviable record in the FA Cup in recent years. The Gunners have won the prestigious cup competition a record 13 times in history and thrice since the 2013-14 season. Arsene Wenger’s side seem to take the FA Cup seriously, and one suspects that they will do the same this time around.
Of course, just because Arsenal would take the FA Cup seriously does not mean that they will win it. A Championship club could shock England, or Manchester City’s reserves could clinch the competition. However, if Wenger fields his strongest team in the FA Cup, gets favourable draws and heads into ties with a positive attitude, then they could well successfully retain the FA Cup. Current FA Cup betting odds have placed Arsenal as only fifth favourites with 9/1.
Arsenal fans would want the team to compete for the Premier League title this season, but even the most optimistic supporters have to agree that it would take a spectacular collapse from Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea for the Gunners to stand a chance. The FA Cup is a prestigious competition, and the North London outfit should be serious about it.
The FA Cup is a good competition for young and fringe players to showcase their quality and get their chances. Players such as Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott could well use cup ties to get into full fitness, form and attempt to get into the England squad for the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia next summer. They could also force Wenger into giving them chances in the Premier League. Competition for places can only be good for an Arsenal side who failed to finish in the top four of the Premier League last season and are not in the Champions League this term.
However, with Arsenal having also progressed to the knockout stages of the Europa League, it could be a bit tricky for the Gunners. Winning the Europa League this season will ensure that the North London outfit will automatically qualify for the 2018-19 Champions League campaign. True, Wenger’s side could get into Europe’s premier club competition next season by finishing in the top four, but it is going to be very hard. Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool are not going anywhere, and there could even be unlikely challengers from Watford and Burnley for the fourth and final Champions League spot.
While Arsenal should head into the FA Cup with a positive attitude, they must be flexible in terms of changing their priority. Finishing in the top four of the Premier League and/or winning the Europa League has to be the Gunners’ main objective this season. The FA Cup would appease a section of the fans and will look nice an shiny in the Gunners’ trophy cabinet, but in the long run, the North London club need to get back into the Champions League in order to re-establish themselves among Europe’s elite.