• FA Cup

Wenger: FA Cup has hurt Arsenal in Europe

ESPN staff
February 14, 2015
Liverpool and Arsenal headline FA Cup weekend

Arsene Wenger admits he has placed so much importance in the FA Cup over the years that Arsenal's Champions League ambitions have suffered as a result.

The Arsenal boss, who ended a nine-year trophy drought last season by lifting the FA Cup at Wembley, claims the competition is still one of his priorities, despite preparing to make a string of changes for the fifth-round clash with Middlesbrough.

Alexis Sanchez will miss out after suffering a knock to his knee in the 2-1 win over Leicester on Tuesday, with January capture Gabriel set to start in place of either Per Mertesacker or Laurent Koscielny.

Arsene Wenger lifted the FA Cup with Arsenal last season © Getty Images

Wojciech Szczesny is also set to come in for David Ospina while Kieran Gibbs could replace Nacho Monreal at left-back. Jack Wilshere could also make his return following four months out with a foot injury.

"It is important to us and we have always taken it seriously," said Wenger.

"We did not always manage to win it, but we have won it five times during my period here. Nobody has won it more in the last 18 years, so we have always taken it seriously.

"Sometimes so seriously that we suffered in the Champions League after. Many times a cup game was in front of a Champions League game - for instance this week we play in the cup and then next week in the Champions League.

"Many times we lost some players. I remember against Manchester United when we played against Chelsea in the Champions League three days later we lost some because we took the game seriously."

Meanwhile, Wenger is concerned Gabriel's "very bad" English" could make life difficult for the 24-year-old Brazilian on Sunday at the Emirates Stadium.

"It is a problem," added Wenger. "When you don't speak English and you don't understand 'Come out, come back, right, left,' it is a problem for a defender.

"You need to know the key words. Offside. Referee. Foul. [But] he has the physicality and motivation. He has an opportunity to show that now."

Gabriel is the first defender Wenger has bought with no English language skills at all, although Jose Antonio Reyes' command of the language was limited even when he returned to Spain.

Wenger has experienced his own language barrier before, when he was boss of Grampus Eight in Japan, and sympathises with the £15 million signing.

"The players are always under tremendous pressure because everything they do is analysed by the pundits and the press," Wenger added.

"The modern player has to live with that - resistance to stress has to be stronger than it was 10 years ago. He [Gabriel] will not read the press. He will just focus on his game - that is one of the advantages.

"When I was in Japan, people could say what they wanted. In Japan, you can speak Japanese and still not read the alphabet. The kanji has 2,000 different characters.

"In Japan I only read the Japan Times - because it was in English."

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