Arsene Wenger feels Arsenal’s Champions League exit against Barcelona means his squad will not be “overloaded” as they aim to beat Manchester United to the domestic double.
The Gunners crashed out of Europe to the Spanish champions for the second successive season at the Nou Camp, where Wenger was left in a rage and on a UEFA charge following the decision of Swiss referee Massimo Busacca to controversially dismiss striker Robin van Persie for shooting at goal just a second after the whistle for offside. It accrued his second caution of the game.
It remains to be seen just how hard Europe’s governing body hit Wenger, and also midfielder Samir Nasri, for “inappropriate language” directed towards the official at the final whistle, with the Arsenal manager adding more fuel to the fire when he accused UEFA of being arrogant and of acting like a “dictatorship”.
What is for certain, though, is a season which promised so much is in danger of ultimately delivering very little.
Nevertheless, Arsenal – who suffered a shock defeat to Birmingham in the Carling Cup final at Wembley 13 days ago – still hold destiny in their own hands.
Following successive league defeats for United, Wenger’s men are now just three points behind the Red Devils, who play the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Marseille next week and must go to the Emirates Stadium on May 1.
Victory at Old Trafford in today’s FA Cup quarter-final would see the Gunners return to Wembley in April and stay on course to clinch a double.
Wenger fsaid: “We will not be overloaded, that’s the advantage of it. We want to deal well with the two psychological blows that we had recently and that’s our purpose. If we manage to do that then it will be (an) advantage.”
Veteran goalkeeper Manuel Almunia will return to the starting XI, with Wojciech Szczesny set to be sidelined for around six weeks with a broken finger.
Arsenal will be without captain Cesc Fabregas after he his hamstring problem in Barcelona in midweek.