Many view this year's FA Cup as Arsenal's best shot at lifting its first trophy since winning the same competition back in 2005.
No one can claim that we had an easy road to the semi-finals. Arsenal played their way to Wembley by knocking out Tottenham, Coventry City, Liverpool and Everton.
Now, of the remaining teams in the venerable competition, Sheffield United are in League One, Wigan play in the Championship, and Hull City sit in the bottom half of the Premier League.
On paper, the trophy should be Arsenal's for the taking, right?
But we've been in similar situations before. In 2011, Arsenal were heavily favored to win the League Cup against Birmingham – a club that would be relegated from the Premier League at the end of the season – but had to settle for runners-up medals after a 2-1 loss. Last season, Arsenal were ousted from the FA Cup in the fifth round by Championship-side Blackburn. And lest we forget, Wigan have knocked Manchester City out of the competition two years running – including last year's final.
We turned to our panel of supporters to find out how they rate Arsenal's chances of winning the FA Cup, and how cautious we should be.
Question: Should Arsenal be confident or wary of the remaining clubs in the FA Cup?
Arsenal have a strong chance to raise the FA Cup, a very strong chance. The issue is seeing the prize at the end of the path but tripping because you cannot see what is immediately ahead of you. It seems that some Arsenal fans feel that Wigan’s win over Man City assured Arsenal the title, but they may have forgotten that if Wigan beat Man City that it’s in their locker to beat Arsenal.
Uwe Rosler is a manager I’m fairly familiar with. My relatives in and around London are Brentford supporters. Until early December, Rosler was the main at Brentford. He became manager in June 2011 when the Bees had fought hard for mid-table survival in League One.
The next season changes were made, better loan deals were crafted, more pace was brought into the squad and Brentford became a sound place for teams to send players needing match time. The Bees in their first season with Rosler were in the League Trophy South Semi-Final. They narrowly missed the playoffs that season. The following season they were runners-up in the playoffs, nearly sealing promotion. This is quick growth for a club that is hampered by tight transfer strings, similar to Arsenal.
The Gunners do well breaking down teams trying to play like Arsenal, especially when that team cannot do it at Arsenal's pace.
This season he left the Bees for Wigan after Owen Coyle was sacked. At the time Brentford were in fourth and looking one of the strongest teams in League One. He arrived at Wigan to disarray and confusion. They had been struggling in the Europa League (a consequence of winning the 2013 FA Cup), and their league form was poor as they sat 14th. Rosler is a strong manager and good tactician. They lost their last Europa League group stage match (his first in charge), but seeing as they were likely done and Rosler was hired for the league, please assume this to be an outlier in his performance.
Since taking charge of Wigan they have lost only two matches domestically, a shock loss to Doncaster between tricky FA Cup matches and a combative affair with Huddersfield Town. They now sit fifth in the Championship and have knocked off two teams on their way to Wembley in the FA Cup.
Rosler has them playing well rounded football with good transitions between attack and defence. This is not a bad thing for Arsenal as the Gunners do well breaking down teams trying to play like Arsenal, especially when that team cannot do it at Arsenal’s pace.
Rosler’s effect is so strong that Wigan they have an outside chance of automatic promotion. This is where I get most excited. If Rosler has to prioritize promotion rather than the Europa League, then maybe he will play a weaker squad in the FA Cup. Remember, the money that Wigan gets for promotion is bigger and better than they get for the Europa League! Also, between the last round and the meeting at Wembley Wigan play nine matches in the league to Arsenal’s five.
This is not a team playing Championship level football; they must be treated like a Premier League club. The good news with this strategy is that a lower level Premier League team has been Arsenal’s preferred feast this season.
So be confident, but not arrogant; be optimistic, but stay grounded; be Arsenal, and never anyone else.
As an Arsenal supporter you really couldn’t ask for a better remaining FA Cup run-in, and given our ability to pick apart teams like Wigan which generally prefer to focus on attack, you’d have to say Arsenal are staring down their best chance at FA Cup silverware in a long time.
I do however think that while we can be cautiously confident of success, this particular Arsenal side needs to be extremely careful how it approaches a very tricky and in many ways experienced Wigan team.
While we can be cautiously confident of success, this particular Arsenal side needs to be extremely careful how it approaches a very tricky and in many ways experienced Wigan team.
Morgan hits on the main points that I think Arsène Wenger and the squad should be taking away from this Wigan side: they’re capable of attacking effectively on the counter and they’ve got experience hanging with and beating the big boys (in the case of Manchester City, twice in two seasons).
Where I think the game may get dangerous for Arsenal is if Wigan manage to keep things level and remain compact deep into the second half. In an end-to-end game Arsenal are likely to come out top, but they’ll have to be careful they don’t over-pursue in attack if they need to go in search of a winner later in the game.
That being said, I think if Arsenal play to their strengths of pressing on offense while maintaining their defensive shape, they have every reason to be confident of securing passage to the FA Cup final.
Wait, we have to choose between optimistic and doubtful? Can we be Gooners if we are not both? I mean, I love Morgan's response because it is an intelligent, rational look at the opponent but if truth be told this competition and this next fixture has me in knots.
On the one hand, Arsenal have a squad full of some of the best international players in the world. Cazorla, Mertesacker, Özil, Podolski, Ramsey, Sagna and Wilshere are all starters for their national teams and top class professionals. Arsenal are odds on favorites to win this thing now.
Arsenal have vanquished two top clubs to get to this point and have earned a chance to put all those ugly results against so-called smaller clubs behind us.
On the other hand, Arsenal have occasionally slipped up against exactly this kind of opponent over the last few years in the FA and League Cups and the memory of those slips still burns bright. I'm thinking of the results against Bradford City and Blackburn in the two cup competitions last season.
But in a twist of fate Arsenal have vanquished two top clubs (Everton and Liverpool) to get to this point and have earned a chance to put all those ugly results against so-called smaller clubs behind us. If Arsenal have one hand on the cup, then now is the time to throttle Wigan, put both hands on the cup, and go to the final ready to give the club, the manager, the players, and the fans the trophy we have been waiting for.
The views expressed above are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect those of Arsenal Football Club or Arsenal Media Group.Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 2 Apr 2014