Nottingham Forest v Arsenal

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Press conference

Wenger - Why this is the toughest round

We begin our defence of the Emirates FA Cup away to Nottingham Forest on Sunday, with Arsène Wenger protecting a proud unbeaten record at this stage of the competition.

But despite remaining undefeated throughout his previous 21 third-round ties, there have been plenty of scares through the years, and the boss is wary of the threat offered by lower league sides as the competition gets underway.

"From my personal experience in the FA Cup, and I think I have a lot, this is maybe the most difficult round," he said.

"It’s always difficult to start well in the competition and when you play away against a Championship team – it’s always very intense and the Championship teams are ready to face you.

"For them, it’s a big challenge and you have to maintain your concentration coming out of a very loaded and congested period over Christmas. That’s never easy."

The Gunners are looking for a record-extending 14th FA Cup success, and far from moving down the list of priorities, the boss believes the famous old trophy is growing in stature.

"Yeah, I think contrary to what people think, the FA Cup becomes more and more important in every single country,” he said. “Why? Because it’s difficult to win this kind of trophy.

"You have so many teams who want always to win a trophy. It becomes more and more difficult. I think we won it in style in a period where we were questioned."

Gallery

Pictures: First team train ahead of Forest

The lads were back in training today, ahead of our trip to face Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup, as we begin the defence of our title.

New signing Konstantinos Mavropanos was in action, along with some members of our under-23s squad.

Our club photographer was there and sent back these pictures:

Press conference

Wenger on FA charge, Walcott and Aubameyang

Arsène Wenger’s FA charge, VAR and potential January incomings and outgoings were all on the agenda when the manager sat down with the media on Friday morning.

Read on for his comments on the topics.

on how he’s responded to the FA for his comments on refereeing decisions…
First of all, yes I’ve been asked. I maintain what I said in the press conference, 100 per cent. I have nothing to change in that. Nothing has changed. I’ve been in England for 21 years and I’ve tried to serve this game with honesty, integrity and when I have something to say, I say it. On that front, nothing will change. Never.

on whether he stands by saying Chelsea’s penalty decision was ‘farcical’…
100 per cent.

on people saying it was a penalty…
I respect everybody’s opinion but I think it was a yellow card for Hazard, 100 per cent. I have a right to have my opinion, and I respect everybody’s opinion.

on accusations that Jack Wilshere dived as well…
Yes, maybe he did but why should that change my opinion on the penalty? It’s got nothing to do with it. Every situation is different and has to be assessed by the referee. After that, you have your opinion and I have mine. I’ve been in the game long enough to know that everybody can have a different opinion.

on whether penalty decisions against Arsenal are more than just a coincidence…
I have nothing to add to that. I maintain what I said. At the end of the day, we always spend time talking about things that are not really important in the game. What we want is to see big football games, big players on the football pitch and you want them to be refereed by top-quality people. I think I’ve contributed a lot to give referees a great opportunity to be at their best because I’ve had a huge influence on whether they became professional or not. I believe I’ve had more influence on that and a positive one too. That’s why I can also be demanding and what I want from them is to be at the top. I’m quite surprised that that is shocking.

on whether he is still contesting the West Brom charge…
I don’t know. At the moment, I’m focused on football. You imagine that I’ve been in the game for 21 years, and what I’ve seen and heard in the corridors from people… you’ll understand that I’m quite surprised and shocked at being charged.

on whether he still contests it…
I just told you my answer. There’s no need to talk about that much more.

on if he expects FA charge to be dealt with in time for Sunday…
I don’t know, I focus on football. Honestly, that’s the last of my worries. I know what I do, I know what I say and apart from that, when I come out of a press conference, my only worry is football.

on if he’s requested a personal hearing…
No.

on whether VAR could have helped the situation against Chelsea and whether he welcomes it…
I fought for the video for over 10 years, so I can only be pastime. It can create jobs for former referees, who can continue their work and have that influence.

on whether VAR will be success or failure…
Well, I believe it is like every new technology I can be very positive, I am always in favour of moving forward and therefore even if it creates problems it can sort out many mistakes which have been made before and for example the most obvious ones, when you see Swansea against Tottenham, the offside goal would have been detected, so it can get many mistakes out of the games, especially the offsides. It depends how we use it, if it is to keep completely control for the central referee and out of the pitch, looking at the television while the stadium sits there and freezes, it’s better we stay with eh old system. We can get better but as well make it worse.

on the situation with Walcott…
I want him to stay.

on Walcott being linked with other clubs…
I heard that, yes. Personally I want him to stay.

on reports about a move for Aubameyang…
No, it is not a possibility.

Press conference

Team news: Kolasinac, Monreal, Giroud, Ramsey

Arsene Wenger has revealed the latest team news ahead of Sunday’s Emirates FA Cup opener against Nottingham Forest.

We were without Sead Kolasinac, Nacho Monreal, Olivier Giroud, Aaron Ramsey and Laurent Koscielny for Wednesday’s visit of Chelsea, and the boss has given us the latest ahead of our third-round tie at City Ground:

on the latest team news…
Basically we still have the injuries we had for the Chelsea game, nobody will come back.

on who will miss out…
So you have Kolasinac, Monreal, Giroud, Ramsey, Koscielny all out. It will be a similar group of players. Some of those who played against Chelsea will play again, but also some fresh players will come in.

on how much he will rotate…
I will rotate a little bit because we have also come out of a very high-loaded period. We played three big games in six days and twice we were away, followed by a big game at home. We have to keep our level of focus, of urgency, because the third round is very difficult especially when you play away from home against a Championship team. We play on Wednesday again, so I have to rotate a little bit.

News

The Breakdown: Nottingham Forest v Arsenal preview

We kick off our Emirates FA Cup campaign when we visit Nottingham Forest on Sunday afternoon.

Ahead of the game, tactical expert Michael Cox has examined our opponents in detail.

THE MANAGER

Nottingham Forest recently parted company with Mark Warburton after nine months at the club, with his assistant David Weir and director of football Frank McParland also leaving the club. With Forest searching for a replacement, caretaker manager Gary Brazil will be in charge this weekend. It’s his third stint as Forest’s caretaker boss, and he has also had two stints in a similar capacity at rivals Notts County.

FORMATION

Brazil deployed a 4-2-3-1 system for last weekend’s goalless draw with Leeds, with perhaps the most interesting development being a first league start of the campaign for highly-rated winger Matthew Cash, who missed the first half of the campaign with ankle ligament damage.

STRENGTHS

Forest are a good footballing side with plenty of good passers - only Fulham have a higher pass completion rate in the Championship. The central midfield partnership of Liam Bridcutt and Ben Osborne are able to control matches against Championship opposition, and Forest may have decent spells of pressure here.

DANGER MAN

Young attacking midfielder Kieran Dowell should pull the strings from his No 10 position. Capable of shooting from range and playing clever passes into attack, he’s managed eight goals and four assists this season.

AREAS TO TARGET

Ex-Gunner Armand Traore has been among Forest’s best performers this season, but he retains a tendency to push forward and leave his left-back zone exposed, so Arsenal might get joy when breaking into that zone.

Press conference

‘You could make a fantastic film about him’

One of Arsène Wenger's former protégés - 1995 World Player of the Year George Weah - is to be inaugurated as president of Liberia later this month, and the Gunners boss is on the guest list.

Wenger gave the striker his big break while manager of Monaco in the late 1980s, and Weah went on to become regarded as one of the finest forwards of his generation, winning trophies at PSG, AC Milan and Chelsea, while being named African Footballer of the Year three times.

After retiring from football in 2003 he moved into politics, and was elected President of Liberia in October.

"When you look at his life, and I think the life of this guy is a real film, it’s unbelievable," the boss said.

"You can make a fantastic film. I remember when I saw him the first time in Monaco, coming in a bit lost, not knowing anybody, not being rated by anybody as a player and after, in 1995 becoming the best player in the world and today being president of his country. It’s an unbelievable story!

"But it’s down to the fact that one thing was common in George’s attitude –being strong mentally. Being absolutely, unbelievably, convinced that he has a mission.

"And the second thing, because I went with George through the period where there was war in Liberia, and I saw how much he suffered for his country, the second thing that was always continuous in his life was the love for his country and for his people, and the care he had for other people.

"I didn’t think at that point that he would become president of his country, but today when I look back, I must say I’ve seen him crying when war was on in Liberia.

"It’s a happy story and I wish of course that he has a happy presidency. I would like to say this guy is an example for everybody who plays football today, for all the players."

So will the boss be going to the inauguration ceremony on January 20?

"I don’t think so, because I'll be busy. But maybe if I’m suspended I’ll have time to go!"

Press conference

Wenger - Our plan for Konstantinos Mavropanos

We announced the signing of 20-year-old Greek defender Konstantinos Mavropanos on Thursday, but Arsène Wenger has said he intends to send him back abroad before he makes his Gunners bow.

Having arrived from Greek Super League side PAS Giannina shortly after the transfer window opened, Mavropanos trained with his new team-mates for the first time on Friday morning. But he might be on the move again soon.

"He is with us and the plan is that he goes out on loan somewhere," the manager said. "It could be a German club."

"I prefer him to play. Where? It doesn’t really matter. It’s just that he plays in the top level and gains experience. He is 20 years old and he needs experience for a central defender.

"He is not ready to start for us so it is important he gets experience."

Interview

Will Ainsley play in central midfield at Forest?

Be it at full-back or wing-back, on the left or on the right, Ainsley Maitland-Niles has impressed for us this season.

Before this season, however, the 20-year-old was forging a reputation for himself as a promising central midfielder.

Arsène Wenger has said he’ll rotate his team when we visit Nottingham Forest in the Emirates FA Cup on Friday - so could Maitland-Niles start in the middle?

“It's a possibility,” Wenger said. “It's his preferred position but at the moment I have Kolasinac out, Monreal out and I don't have much choice on the left side unless I play another young boy in Josh Da Silva. I haven't made that decision yet.

“I don't see a difference with the guys who have played more in the Premier League than the guys who have played in the Europa League. It's true that some of them have a bit of a harder life as they want to play as well.

“I rate their contribution and I rate them as players as high as the guys who play. But I have to make decisions. That's the kind of problems that every manager has.”

Interview

Maitland-Niles - Why I’m so calm on the pitch

Ainsley Maitland-Niles has made a name for himself in recent weeks as one of our most composed players.

Despite only making his first Premier League start against West Ham United last month, the 20-year-old has impressed fans and team-mates alike with his calmness in big games against Liverpool and Chelsea.
 
So why is Maitland-Niles so relaxed on the pitch?
 
“That’s just how I play,” he told Arsenal Player. “I know people think, ‘Oh he looks too relaxed, he looks like this or that’, but it’s just me as a person.
 
“It is quite odd for a youngster, but the team make me feel more comfortable. They have trust in me and they will give me the ball when I need to be given the ball. It’s just the team who have helped me settle by working together and I think I’ve earned their trust.
 
“Of course I get nervous before the game too but, I think everyone has those little butterflies in their stomach. You’re playing against world-class players every week, so you’re bound to be nervous at some point in the day.
 
“I think my dad’s influence helped too. He’s a very relaxed person who likes to use his brain a lot without talking. If he can’t fix the situation then of course he’ll speak about it and try to solve it with other people. I’m like that too.”