The FA Cup is special because it is "a dream open to everybody", according to Arsène Wenger.

The Arsenal manager takes his team to Wembley on Saturday for a semi-final against Wigan Athletic, whose shock triumph over Manchester City last May encapsulated the romance of the competition.

The holders beat City again this season for good measure and Wenger believes its potential for surprise results makes the FA Cup unique.

"We all play to win something and if you are in the FA Cup everyone can dream of winning it at the start of the season," he said.

If you play basketball or rugby - any other sport - you cannot open the dream to anyone other than the top teams

"The title - only seven clubs can dream of winning it at the start of the season. But the FA Cup is a dream open to everybody and that is the beauty of the competition.

"Last year Wigan won it, this year you have Sheffield United in the semi-final. In the championship you can talk and talk but we know the biggest teams will win it. That open dream is what makes the FA Cup special in football.

"If you play basketball or rugby - any other sport - you cannot open the dream to anyone other than the top teams. In basketball, if you play against a team from Division Two, there is absolutely no chance unless you give them 30 points. Only our sport can create that excitement because it is uncertain."

Wenger grew up with the FA Cup and he remembers what caught his eye when he watched Wembley showpieces unfold during his childhood.

"It was a dream when I was a kid to watch the FA Cup," he recalled. "It was one of the competitions you could watch in black and white on television.

"I don't remember the two teams [in the first final I watched]. What stays in my memory is exactly the place where I sat at school, because we had to pay one franc to watch.

"What struck me at the time was that the ball was white and the pitch was perfect, because I played in a village where the pitch was a disaster. The players had their hair well combed, and the managers were relaxed at that time - they joked together on the bench. That always struck me."

It's nine years since Wenger last got his hands on the FA Cup. Arsenal followed up Wenger-inspired victories in 1998, 2002 and 2003 with a taut, tense penalty shoot-out win over Manchester United at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium. And the Frenchman had a confession on the eve of Saturday's semi-final.

"In fact in 2005 we did not deserve to win the final," he said. "It [being defensive] was the only way we could win it.

"At the start I didn’t set up like that and suddenly they [Man United] were all over us. I realised that physically we were not able to compete, so I said ‘OK, let’s defend as long as we can’."

Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to as the source
Chris Harris 10 Apr 2014