League form not a factor for FA Cup showdown, says Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger
Arsene Wenger insists Arsenal’s recent poor league form will not impact his side when they face Manchester City in Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final.
The Gunners have lost five of their last nine Premier League games to slip out of the top four, with Wenger now facing an uphill challenge to secure Champions League football for next season.
The FA Cup, a competition Wenger has won a record-equalling six times, now offers the only chance of a trophy for the Frenchman as he continues to battle against a growing minority of fans who want to see him leave.
The 67-year-old’s contract expires at the end of the campaign and, amid the dismal spell, supporters have protested against Wenger being offered a fresh deal.
But victory over City would help Wenger keep the majority on side and he believes that league form goes out of the window at this stage.
“It’s a different competition,” he said.
“Every competition brings a psychological atmosphere. We have many times seen teams not doing well in the championship and when it is a different competition suddenly they are doing very well.
“They don’t carry the negative vibes of bad experiences in this competition.”
Wenger will be without David Ospina, Lucas Perez, Danny Welbeck, Shkodran Mustafi and Jeff Reine-Adelaide at Wembley with the quintet all sidelined through injury.
It remains to be seen if he sticks with the new formation trialled at Middlesbrough, where he deployed three defenders and had both Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil playing off Olivier Giroud.
Gabriel Jesus is set to make an early return from injury for Pep Guardiola’s side following a broken foot.
Guardiola has confirmed the 20-year-old will travel to London with the squad and is in contention to play, perhaps even to start.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference, Guardiola said: “He’s really, really much, much better.
“Today he will take part in training with us. He’s coming back with his happiness and we are so happy he’s back again.
“We are going to travel with all the squad to Wembley, all the group, and he will be part of that. After that, we will see.
“We will watch the match between Tottenham and Chelsea and after dinner I will decide the team.”
Asked if he had ruled out a starting spot for Jesus, Guardiola said: “No.”
Jesus made a big impression after joining City from Palmeiras in January, scoring three goals in five appearances and briefly displacing the prolific Sergio Aguero from the team.
Guardiola said: “He has made an impact. You know how difficult it is to come into the Premier League and play how we play but in just 10 minutes against Tottenham he created two or three chances himself and scored (a goal which was disallowed).
“In any case when players are injured I am happy they are coming back – especially for him.
“He had all Europe in his hands and he decided to come here and join us. We can’t forget that.
“I am so happy he joined us here but then he could only play two or three weeks, so that is why I am so happy.
“With Sergio and the other ones, hopefully he will help us score goals until the end of the season.”
On the downside for City, defender John Stones has been ruled out with the injury that prevented him from featuring in last week’s Premier League victory at Southampton.