Arsenal have little time to rest after securing an FA Cup final fixture against Hull City. Next up is a difficult Premier League home tie with West Ham, the kind of match that can send Arsene Wenger's season spiralling before the much-anticipated Wembley clash.
Wenger addressed the media during a pre-match press conference ahead of Tuesday's all-London affair. Hot topics included Arsenal's ability to topple Everton in fourth, a rundown of injury news and the importance of fans' support at this vital time.
Focusing on the Gunners' league campaign, Wenger knows his team face a real test to land an automatic spot in next season's Champions League. Consistency is key at this time of the campaign—more so than rip-roaring performances—as the search for three points takes precedence over everything else.
Wenger suggests his players understand this and will draw on experience to get the job done, reported by Arsenal's official website:
It's down to consistency and we have just to focus on our results and see where we finish. The quality of our performances, the quality of our spirit and our focus (makes me think we can finish in the top four).
Experience counts of course. But the difference will be the quality that you produce on the pitch and that is down to desire, to be faithful to our game we want to play, and get everybody back in our squad.
Building on his last comment, Wenger also acknowledged potential injury problems. James Olley of the London Evening Standard provides a summary of issues that could severely hamper Arsenal's squad ahead of the Emirates action:
At Colney. Wenger: "Many players have to be checked for muscular problems & fatigue. Rosicky & Koscielny have fitness tests today."— James Olley (@JamesOlley) April 14, 2014
Wenger: "Monreal (bruise) had to come off, Podolski should be alright, Ox (also a doubt) - he was not supposed to play on Saturday."— James Olley (@JamesOlley) April 14, 2014
Wenger says Wilshere starting to jog again. "He's progressing well." Says next 3 weeks are key & is confident Wilshere will play this season— James Olley (@JamesOlley) April 14, 2014
Despite a chorus of boos filling Wembley when Wenger substituted Lukas Podolski for Olivier Giroud—opting to take the explosive German off instead of the hapless Yaya Sanogo—Wenger thanked the fans for their support against Wigan, reported by Olley and Arsenal's official Twitter account:
Wenger: "Our fans were fantastic on Saturday even when it was bad. I'm sure they will be behind the team for the rest of the season"— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) April 14, 2014
The Independent's Michael Calvin compared Wenger's area to a "prison cell" and said the manager "failed to dispel the impression of a man on the ragged edge" during Saturday's semi-final. Although Arsenal fans are sure to feel relieved after overcoming Championship opposition, a similar performance won't be good enough to bypass Sam Allardyce's West Ham side.
Which team will win this match?
Big Sam will have his team drilled to frustrate. A midfield of Mark Noble and Kevin Nolan will work doggedly to stop Arsenal finding their passing rhythm, while Andy Carroll is sure to throw his weight into every challenge that occur from long balls.
Wenger's squad cannot afford to feel satisfied with their achievements in the FA Cup. A slip up in the Premier League is likely to prove fatal at this point, despite Everton's difficult run of fixtures against Manchester United, Southampton and Manchester City.
The under-pressure manager's tenure is likely to be defined by what he achieves in the next few weeks. Although Wenger appeared composed during his pre-match presser, a poor result against West Ham is sure to overshadow any progress made by reaching the FA Cup final.