If there is one statistic Arsenal supporters do not need to be reminded of, it's that the Club has not won any silverware since the 2005 FA Cup.
After beating the likes of Tottenham, Liverpool and Everton and earning a spot in the FA Cup Semi Final, that streak could finally end this year.
But Arsenal may face some tough decisions in the coming weeks. After a long and difficult season, fatigue becomes an issue and rotating the squad is the usual answer. But with injuries to players like Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshere and Laurent Koscielny, the squad lacks some of the depth it had when Arsenal was at the top of the Premier League table.
We turned to our panel of supporters to find out where they think Arsenal's focus should be in the last six weeks of the season.
Question: How much should Arsenal prioritize the FA Cup over the remaining league games?
With the way that the Chelsea and Swansea results shook out for Arsenal, it's hard to argue against the club throwing absolutely everything at winning the FA Cup this season. However, given the other results in the league over that same period, Arsenal are now not only realistically out of the title race, we now have virtually no room for error in simply trying to qualify for the Champions League next season.
The decision to heavily prioritize the FA Cup could leave the club with a very high price to pay.
The trip to Goodison Park to face Everton is the latest in growing list of must-win matches; failure to do so could leave us in a scrap with the Toffees (possibly Spurs as well) for fourth place -- and Everton will still have a match in hand. So we cannot afford to do much squad rotation given the collection of injuries to the first team. A win in this match will provide a small amount of breathing room in the hunt for Champions League football, and could very well provide a confidence boost for the run-in.
While the season may not appear to be heading for the finish we had hoped for, there is still much to play for. Prior to this season, if you had asked me if I would accept a third place finish and winning the FA Cup, I'd have taken it happily.
However, Arsenal will face giant slayers Wigan in the FA Cup semi-final a week later, and with no rotation against Man City on March 29, we could be looking at fielding 11 of the same 12 or 13 players for six straight matches. The fear of course is a squad with leaden legs facing a relatively fresh Wigan whose players have absolutely nothing to lose.
For Wigan, advancing and possibly winning the FA Cup is a bonus, plain and simple. The pressure is squarely on Arsenal to win the cup; if we can't win it given the remaining opposition, the dissatisfaction among Arsenal fans will be palpable. This pressure will mandate Arsenal field the strongest 11 players possible and as deep a bench as we can muster.
There has been much talk about the inclusion of youth players like Hector Bellerin and Chuba Akpom in the first team. While it doesn't seem like the most prudent of times to bed in young players, this seems to be more out of necessity than about long-term planning. I can't project much involvement from either of them in coming matches, except in case of injury (please, no).
We're currently in a situation in which Arsenal are heavily reliant on raw talents such as Yaya Sanogo and Serge Gnabry, both of whom look like they can be something special one day but are not yet ready to be clear difference-makers. Depending on Bellerin and Akpom, for all the praise they have rightly received, would be asking a great deal, given their inexperience at the top level. So while it is pleasing that Arsenal do have young players who are close to the first team, my hope is that they will not be needed just yet.
However, given the quality shown by Kim Kallstrom in his cameo against Swansea, our depth in midfield at least seems to have been given a fillip. I'm looking forward to seeing more of our loan signing in action soon.
If we can weather this current storm and advance past Wigan to the FA Cup final, we have a run of games in which we could conceivably rest some visibly tired players: West Ham (H), Hull (A), Newcastle (H), WBA (H), Norwich (A). While none of these matches will be easy by any stretch, these are teams less likely to punish us for a youthful mistake than the likes of Everton or City. As there is a full week off between the Norwich match and the Cup final, there is time to rest up -- provided we get past Wigan.
While the season may not appear to be heading for the finish we had hoped for, there is still much to play for. Prior to this season, if you had asked me if I would accept a third place finish and winning the FA Cup, I'd have taken it happily. The opportunity to meet both of those standards is right there for the taking.
With the fans behind them, Arsenal can most assure Champions League football for next season with all the goodies that come with it, and take a major trophy home for the first time since 2005.
Come on Arsenal.
I feel that we should take one match at a time approach, regardless of the competition. This looks to be the first season in a while where Arsenal have a realistic chance at silverware.
Winning the league is obviously something that seems more unlikely after the Chelsea result, but stranger things have happened and this has been the most closely fought league races in recent years with seven points separating the current top four. It is also important that we don’t allow other top 4 hopefuls (Spurs, Everton and United) to catch up with us.
But to me, a top three finish is an absolute must. Finishing the season at fourth place will be a disappointment especially considering how Arsenal managed to stay at the top of the table for much for the first half of the season. It will also ensure that we won’t have to deal with a qualifying Champions League match at the start of next season.
As Brett outlined, the road to the FA Cup trophy seems easy enough but the team and manager have to be cautious. This is not a just any Wigan team. This is a Wigan team that managed to beat a City team that is the most expensive in England at the moment. And although Sheffield and Hull haven’t had as challenging a road to the semi-finals as Wigan or we have, they will no doubt be relishing their chances at Wembley.
Arsenal simply can take nothing for granted.
Brett does a very nice job summing up the situation at hand. Starved for the sight of lifting a trophy of any kind, Arsenal fans may want to throw everything we've got into the FA Cup.
However, the vitality of a club like Arsenal is not contingent upon winning the FA Cup, the reason Arsenal have the financial stability they have and the consistency in the top four is due to their inclusion in the Champions League.
Financially, winning the FA Cup will do very little for Arsenal's bottom line. Will it be nice to see Arsenal lift the cup, absolutely, but this club's lifeline is the Champions League, and finishing in the top four is of utmost priority.
Fortunately for Arsenal fans, I think, finally, we'll be able to have our cake and eat it to, so to speak. Considering Arsenal's position as the favorite in oldest association football competition in the world and relative strong position inside the top four, I believe the trophy drought is snapped, and Arsenal finish inside the top four by season's end, despite the team putting more of a priority on the later.
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 31 Mar 2014