By Nick Ames

Robin van Persie has urged Arsenal not to let recent defeats weigh heavily on their minds ahead of Sunday’s big FA Cup clash with Aston Villa.

Three consecutive league defeats have made the start of 2012 a frustrating one but the captain wants his team-mates to embrace the opportunity to go far in the world’s oldest cup competition - especially since a number of top-flight rivals have bitten the dust.

In his captain’s notes for the Official Matchday Programme, Van Persie said: “We’re going from scratch in a sense this afternoon. The FA Cup brings a different atmosphere, often with more away fans in the stadium, and a chance to think about something other than league football.

"I’d like us to do that against Villa – it’s been painful to lose three in a row, but this game is a different matter and it’s more productive to view it freshly rather than carrying the weight of those defeats.

"We know we have a big opportunity because after this round a lot of big Premier League sides will have been knocked out and we must be ready to take advantage.”

Villa are never easy opponents, and come into the match full of confidence after a 3-2 win at Wolves in which new striker Robbie Keane scored twice. Van Persie is eager to take them on, though, and expects the unexpected.

“[Villa’s] is a dangerous line-up but a nice challenge for us,” he stated. “We’ll have to play with our hearts and keep going regardless of any situation in the game – because anything can happen in the FA Cup, and that’s why I love this competition.”

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29 Jan 2012