“Yes [it stung] because during my whole life I have gone out against lower-league teams very, very few times. At Arsenal we managed to avoid that for 16 years and last season it happened.
“When you do that, you always feel somewhere that the team missed a little bit of focus. We were a bit unlucky against Blackburn but, behind that when you always have big games [coming up], you are more in danger that the focus of the team is already on the next one.”
It is clear that Arsène Wenger was hurt by last season’s FA Cup exit to Blackburn Rovers at Emirates Stadium. It was perhaps the worst result of an otherwise rock solid 2013 and a few cracks would follow. Within three weeks Arsenal had been beaten 3-1 at home to Bayern and 2-1 away at Tottenham - their hopes of silverware seemed over and chances for the Champions League the next season were extremely precarious.
"If you have two or three divisions difference in basketball, rugby, volleyball or handball, you cannot make it up. But in football you can"
That would change of course. Although Wenger’s men could not overturn the deficit in Munich, their 2-0 victory in the second leg did reverse their fortunes. But, as the manager accepts, perhaps his side were blinded by a vision of bigger games when they stepped out against Blackburn in that fifth-round tie.
With Arsenal so buoyant right now, they cannot afford complacency when Coventry visit on Friday. Wenger views the League One side as a threat.
“Yes, of course they are,” he said. “If you have two or three divisions difference in basketball, rugby, volleyball or handball, you cannot make it up. But in football you can. That makes it so unpredictable.
“Last year's defeat to Blackburn was a big disappointment. It was a great warning and at the moment this just our next game and we want to win it.”
The manager has promised to field a similar-strength side to the one that knocked out Tottenham in the third round, which suggests it will be only two or three players away from his first-choice XI.
Coventry are midway in League One after a testing season. However, had they not been docked 10 points for going into administration they would be just outside the play-offs. Meanwhile a dispute over the Ricoh Arena has meant they have played home games at Northampton Town’s ground.
These challenging circumstances do not seem to have bothered rookie manager Steven Pressley.
The former Rangers defender has fashioned a side very different from the one harshly punished 6-1 at Emirates Stadium in the Capital One Cup last season just after Mark Robins had taken over (incidentally a game that saw Olivier Giroud score his first goal and Serge Gnabry play his first game). Reports suggest there is renewed purpose, drive and fitness with Pressley’s men.
The manager has promised “no day trip” for a squad that includes John Fleck as his ‘quarter-back’, 18-goal Leon Clarke as his key striker, and Belgian Franck Moussa supplying the guile in midfield.
“We have to prepare seriously for this game,” said Wenger. “Their position doesn't really reflect their real quality. We have to be warned by that.
"This team is still in a moment of its lifetime where we want to gain respect, and our attitude is the best way to do that"
“We are on a good run and really it will be not welcome at all to take this game lightly. This team is still in a moment of its lifetime where we want to gain respect, and our attitude is the best way to do that.”
This is the first Friday game at Emirates Stadium and the visit of Coventry recalls Wenger's first home game as Arsenal manager back in October 1996.
“I remember it,” he said. “It was a 0-0 so it was not the best memory certainly at Highbury but I have so many good ones of that place anyway.”
There is every chance that this game will pass quickly through the memory banks if Arsenal pull off the expected victory.
But last year’s exit suggests Coventry demand their full concentration on Friday.
Arsenal: Ramsey (thigh), Arteta (calf) Vermaelen (knee), Sanogo (back), Walcott (knee), Diaby (knee)
Coventry: Wilson (shoulder)
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