By Richard Clarke
"Financially, it is impossible to compete with them," said Arsène Wenger on the eve of Tuesday's Carling Cup Quarter-Final with Manchester City. "But on the football pitch it is certainly possible.
"And what is interesting is that we are playing a football game tomorrow night - so it is important to compete.
"Every time Arsenal are involved, it is our pride and ambition that are [at stake]. We want to qualify and we want to win the game. Therefore we will try to give absolutely everything. It is important for the whole Club to show our strength again."
In recent years, the Carling Cup has been both dipstick for Arsenal's squad depth and crystal ball for their future.
The trouble on Tuesday is that Manchester City will probably see it the same way.
Roberto Mancini's Sky Blues may be casting a green eye toward Arsenal's serene passage into the Champions League Knockout Stages but domestically they are untouchable right now. Joe Hart's superb injury-time save from Liverpool's Andy Carroll at the weekend ensured that they passed the first third of the Premier League season without defeat. They reached Tuesday's Quarter-Final tie after comfortable wins over Birmingham and Wolves.
Like Wenger, Mancini has made use of his squad in this competition. But the Frenchman knows that, given the costly acquisitions in their first-team, this will be no-one's Reserves.
"What you call a second-string side still involves some [good] players," he said. "If you look at the team who played Wolves they still have seven or eight players who you don't know if they are first or second string. The good news for us is that we expect to play against a strong side and that we know we will only go through if we produce a top-class performance. Let's focus on that."
On the eve of the game, Wenger was giving no indication of his team, especially amid suggestions he may inject some experience to counter the 'senior Citizens' on show.
"I have 90 per cent decided," he said. "There is still 10 per cent flexibility and because of this I cannot tell you who plays. But it is [the usual blend of experience and youth].
"I believe that some players are on the fringe of being really limited [through injury]. I will rest some players but I still want to play a team that has a chance to win the game. For example, players like [Alex] Oxlade-Chamberlain and [Emmanuel] Frimpong will feature but I consider them to be first-team players."
The manager did confirm that Nico Yennaris is in the squad. The Cypriot-Chinese defender made a solid debut against Bolton in the last round and, with right backs at a premium in the first-team, he would be a bold selection against the Premier League leaders.
As with Arsenal, it is difficult to predict the Manchester City line-up. Often the weekend's bench is the basis of the side. In that case Eden Dzeko, Kolo Toure, Pablo Zabaleta, keeper Costel Pantilimon, Nigel de Jong and Andy Johnson will start. But for his sending off, Mario Balotelli would have been in the frame too.
Former England midfielder Owen Hargreaves scored in the Third Round tie against Birmingham and reports suggests he is in the squad.
But Wenger won't drive himself mad second-guessing the opposition. His substitutes on Saturday were strong too - Yossi Benayoun, Marouane Chamakh, Emmanuel Frimpong, Lukasz Fabianski, Gervinho, Laurent Koscielny and Abou Diaby. The last of those is a doubt having tweaked a hamstring on his return on Saturday but Francis Coquelin may fill his midfield berth. Ju Young Park could start after his winner against Bolton.
If Manchester City are said to have 'two sides' then Arsenal could name a pair of impressive XIs themselves. Part of their recent run - P10 W8 D2 L0 - has been based on late injections from the bench.
"The squad has more experience now and I am confident we can show that on Tuesday night," said Wenger. "We are still a young team and the success of this Club is based on the development of young players. We still want to show that.
"Mentally we are different [compared to the end of last season]. I believe that everybody would say that we were a very good side last year but, of course, the final two months were difficult because of the accumulation of disappointments and injuries.
"Today we are in a very good shape, we want to do well and we have a good spirit. Let's see where we stand at the end of the season and then we can compare."
Last season's downturn started in the 90th minute at Wembley on February 27 when Obafemi Martins struck that late winner for Birmingham in the Carling Cup Final. It allowed the critics to continue to count the days since Arsenal last won a trophy. But then it would never have been enough.
Surely Mancini would trade a win on Tuesday for Wenger's position in Champions League Group F. The Arsenal manager is committed to victory but he is aware it was that very Carling Cup run which spread his resources too thinly last season.
"The target is to finish in the top four," he said. "The rest is less important. It's as simple as that. When you are in a competition you want of course to win it. But what engages the whole future of the Club is being in the top four.
"However we would love to [make up for last season's Final]. It is a cup so you go from round to round and we have the chance to play at home which means no big travel commitments.
"We want to use the opportunity to do well and qualify."
Arsenal: Wilshere (ankle), Gibbs (stomach), Jenkinson (back), Sagna (ankle), Ryo (ankle).
Man City: Balotelli (suspended), Barry (suspended).
Referee: L Probert
* There will be a period of appreciation before kick-off to mark the death of Wales manager Gary Speed. Both sets of players will also be wearing black arm-bands.
* The tie will be decided on the night, if necessary, via extra-time and penalties.
* Arsenal have not lost at home to Manchester City since October 1975 - 28 games ago.
* Victory on Tuesday would see Arsenal complete an unbeaten November for the third time under Arsène Wenger. Traditionally it is one of their trickiest months.