Arsenal

FA Cup Re-Match More Important for Arsenal Than Liverpool

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 02:  Arsene Wenger the manager of Arsenal and Brendan Rodgers the manager of Liverpool look on during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and  Arsenal at Anfield on September 2, 2012 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Nick MillerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 13, 2014

The enthusiasm for playing Liverpool again, just a week after they were so comprehensively hammered by Brendan Rodgers' side, must be pretty low at Arsenal. But play them again they must, because the pair have been drawn together in the FA Cup.

The good news is that a repeat of the 5-1 victory is unlikely, largely because the chances of another performance like that from Liverpool would be incredible.

Logically, you would think that Wenger would learn from last Saturday, when a combination of Liverpool's extraordinary blitz in the opening 20 minutes and their own poor defending led to a 4-0 deficit before Arsenal knew what was happening.

However, Wenger is not a man to readily adapt his game plan according to the opposition. It might be regarded as a strength that Arsenal play their own way, because so many of the best and most successful teams do—they make the opposition adapt, rather than adapting themselves.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 12:  Steven Gerrard of Liverpool celebrates scoring their third goal from the penalty spot during the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and Liverpool at Craven Cottage on February 12, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Aside from the odd alteration in personnel, Wenger rarely strays from his favoured method, but one wonders if he will alter things on Sunday in reaction to the last game. The answer is quite probably not, if only because they are at home this time, and Liverpool surely could not possibly attack like that again.

Still, confidence is high at Anfield. After the 5-1 win over Arsenal and their last-gasp victory at Fulham on Wednesday, Steven Gerrard claimed Liverpool have a shot—a long shot, but a shot nonetheless—at winning the Premier League. He was quoted on the official Liverpool website as saying:

Against Arsenal, we showed how much class we've got. We showed we've got talent all over the pitch; at home, with the atmosphere behind us, you don't have to motivate yourself - you just go out and perform, and more often than not you play well.

But coming away on a Wednesday night, windy, on a difficult pitch, away to Fulham is a big test for the team. We've passed it but we still have to learn from our mistakes and defend better on the road if we're to finish in the top four places.

We're in the mix. It's still early days, there's a lot of football to be played and we're not going to get carried away. But we are in good form. We feel as if we're dark horses.

While a trophy would obviously be a feather in the cap of either manager, this is arguably a more important game for Arsenal. While the Premier League title is their main aim this season, any sort of trophy is not far behind and given the strength of their main domestic and European rivals, the FA Cup represents their best chance of winning something for the first time since 2005.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 08:  View of the scoreboard showing a 5-1 Liverpool victory during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield on February 8, 2014 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Liverpool's primary aim is to finish in the top four, and one of their advantages when it comes to the race to qualify for the Champions League is their lack of other distractions. Arguably, going further in the FA Cup could prove to be just such a distraction.

The bad news for Arsenal is that there will be a fair bit of pressure on them on Sunday. The good news is that it can't possibly be as bad as last week.

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