Saturday 20 January 2018

big guns adept at reading situation

Arsenal boss insists his side won't be caught out be Royals

Holders Arsenal are unlikely to start slowly against Championship side Reading in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley tomorrow having learned the lessons from a year ago at the same stage against Wigan Athletic.

Like Reading, Wigan were also in the second tier having been relegated from the Premier League at the end of the 2012-13 when they won the FA Cup.

Arsenal were huge favourites but Wigan led 1-0 until defender Per Mertesacker equalised with time running out and Arsenal won on penalties.

Arsene Wenger's side went on to win the FA Cup against Hull City a few weeks later, ending a nine-year trophy drought, and now return to Wembley seeking to beat Reading and stay on course to win the FA Cup for what would be a record-setting 12th time.

Wenger, who has won the Cup five times since he became Arsenal manager in 1996, emphasised he was taking nothing for granted against Reading who are struggling at the wrong end of the Championship table.

They are without a win in five league games, have lost all 12 matches they have played against Arsenal and have not reached this stage of the competition since 1927.

"I think I'm playing my 10th semi-final on Saturday so that means we know how to prepare," Wenger said at Arsenal's training ground.

"We know as well that it is always tricky. We have learnt from Wigan last year when we went to penalties. The urgency level will be quite high in our team.

"I believe, having just spoken about the team, where we have also improved is that we are starting matches stronger.

"We have learned from last season. We were a bit apprehensive in the semi-final and the final and maybe that experience can help us on Saturday."

Although Arsenal are the overwhelming favourites, Wenger noted Reading's strengths.

"They have a good offensive potential, with (Pavel) Pogrebnyak, (Jamie) Mackie, (Hal) Robson-Kanu, (Garath) McCleary, they are all dangerous players. They have a very efficient style, who go a lot for crosses and can be a danger going forward," he said.

"Their manager Steve Clarke has a lot of experience too so he knows exactly what to do. He has spent a long time at the top and he knows exactly what will happen. I'm sure he will prepare his team very well."

Wenger, meanwhile, refused to add to the speculation over whether Jurgen Klopp will head to the Premier League.

Klopp insisted on Wednesday that he had had no contact with any clubs, but stressed he did not plan to take an extended time-out from the game after announcing that he will end his seven-year spell at Borussia Dortmund in the summer.

The German has been installed as favourite to replace the under-fire Manuel Pellegrini at Manchester City, but Wenger was keen not to add fuel to the fire when quizzed on the matter.

"I'm not an agency to place managers and I like every manager and respect everybody, but I find that circus a bit ridiculous," the Frenchman said.

On whether Klopp would suit Arsenal, Wenger said: "I already answered this question."

Wenger does not believe Dortmund players will necessarily look to follow the charismatic 47-year-old out of the Westfalenstadion.

"It's down to every club to make the right decision and to respect Dortmund," he said. "Dortmund is a massive club and will survive, and has the ability to keep their best players.

"They have a big history linked with great results and great achievements, so I don't think that will stop for Dortmund."

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