Wenger taking no chances in Leeds clash
Manager Arsene Wenger has warned Arsenal against history repeating itself when they face Leeds in the third round of the FA Cup at the Emirates Stadium tonight.
The Gunners needed a last-minute penalty from Cesc Fabregas to avoid an early exit at the same stage of the competition 12 months ago as they drew 1-1 with the npower Championship club.
Leeds were eventually dispatched in a replay at Elland Road, but it was an extra fixture Arsenal could have done without as they saw a promising campaign quickly unravel.
In contrast, Wenger's men have improved as this season has developed, recovering from an appalling start to close in on the top four of the Barclays Premier League.
While he is expected to rotate a squad which will include Thierry Henry after the former captain signed a short-term loan deal from New York Red Bulls, Wenger expects full focus on the job in hand.
“We have the experience of last year when we couldn't beat them at home, so let's hope we can do it this year,” said Wenger, who will be without captain Robin van Persie, who is on a family break in Dubai.
“We just lost a game in the league [at Fulham] which gave us a lot of regrets, so we want to respond quickly with a win. We have a good opportunity because we play at home.
“I will play a strong side, a normal side. Maybe one or two will be rested, but apart from that I think we will still have Marouane Chamakh, although Robin van Persie will certainly be rested.”
Arsenal head into the cup tie on the back of a frustrating festive period which saw opportunities missed to really close up on the leaders.
A lacklustre 1-1 draw at home to Wolves on December 27 was followed by the loss at Fulham, despite leading 1-0 heading into the final 10 minutes before defender Johan Djourou was sent off.
However, Wenger is not about to draw any definitive conclusions over what the next five months will hold.
“Our target is to win the next game and the next game is the FA Cup. For the championship I don't know more than you,” he said.
“We are fighting very hard to get in the top four, if we can we can do better. We have just come out of the Christmas period with seven points, but it is not good enough to fight for the championship because we should have made 12.
“That is why we cannot get involved in any considerations in the championship at the moment. I feel we have to win our own games and not speak too much.”
Wenger has already made one major transfer move with the return of Henry and is expected to further strengthen his squad, with full-back a real area of concern due to injuries.
Lyon's Aly Cissokho is a reported target but Wenger added: “At the moment nothing, we don't have a concrete case but we don't rule it out.”