Belfast Telegraph

Last season's cup glory fired up Gunners: Mertesacker

By Jim van Wijk

Per Mertesacker believes Arsenal have become a stronger unit from their FA Cup success of last season, but cannot allow themselves any sense of complacency against Reading at Wembley in today's FA Cup semi-final (5.20pm).

The Gunners head into the tie on the back of a superb run of form, which has seen them win 16 from 18 matches in all competitions and up into second place in the Premier League.

The atmosphere around the club is certainly a world way from the tense finale to the 2013-14 campaign, when Arsenal were under extreme pressure in the quest to finally end a near decade wait for silverware as well as finish in the top four of the Premier League once again, not to mention the uncertainty around the future of manager Arsene Wenger.

Those ambitions were within eight minutes of being shattered when trailing 1-0 to Wigan in their semi-final 12 months ago, before Mertesacker made amends for giving away an earlier penalty when heading home a late equaliser to force extra-time and a nerve-shredding penalty shoot-out victory that in turn set up a final against Hull, which itself proved just as dramatic as Arsenal came from 2-0 down to lift the trophy.

"It is a good warning to all of us. You need to be focused 100% Reading, so it is going to be a tough one for us," said the German, who will again lead the team out at Wembley with captain Mikel Arteta still not fit.

"We suffered a bit last season on that occasion with that pressure, but it was a great experience and hopefully we can manage that a bit better."

Belfast Telegraph


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