In lead up to this weekends FA Cup match against Sheffield United, Mikel Arteta gave a press conference on an array of topics including, Sheffield, the FA Cup, youth players, Guendouzi, and more. Read the full recap from Arsenal here.
A primary focus of the interview was the FA Cup and what it means to him and Arsenal. Arteta said,
“We are very excited. It’s a competition that is very linked to this football club, that has won it more times than anyone else in this country. The players are excited. Obviously having the chance to go to Wembley, even if it’s empty, it’s such a special occasion. So we’ll try hard but we’re facing a difficult opponent for sure. But the boys are excited about it.”
It’s a good answer and one that suggests he has every intent of putting out a strong team that can get a result. However, a question that followed was about how he manages his squad to balance the Premier League and FA Cup where he acknowledged the difficult situation Arsenal are in with injuries.
“Well we’ve been unfortunate because we’ve picked up a lot of injuries in the last few weeks. We need players to recover as well. We are playing every three days and their condition with this hot climate is getting harder and harder. For sure we’re going to use some of the players that we used in the last game, but we’ll have to rotate some of them as well. We have to manage the squad now in the best possible way because it’s Wednesday, then Saturday, then Wednesday again. The games are catching up and players are still not in the best condition to compete”
Arsenal have a great history with the FA Cup competition winning the award more than anyone else, but they have been plagued with injuries during a time when playing every three days after a lengthy gap is the reality and largest obstacle.
“What we did in recent years is pretty remarkable and difficult to achieve because it’s a lot of games and a lot of tricky situations that you have to go through. But game management is a really important thing in these times and we need to know how to play the 90 minutes, the extra-time and sometimes the penalties. It’s a mind game as well, this competition.“
Sheffield United will be a tough game for Arsenal who have yet to beat the side shocking the Premier League. They have earned themselves the reputation of being an aggressive, disruptive, and organized side that understands the ins-and-outs of their game plan and how to win games.
Arsenal will have to find a way to get their first win against the said and may get courage not only from their recent result against Southampton but the struggles that Sheffield have had in their return. A draw 0-0 to Aston Villa, a 3-0 loss to Newcastle United, and a 3-0 loss to Manchester United is far from ideal for a side that has been punching above its perceived weight-class all year.
The lack of a crowd may be a huge blow for them but a huge advantage for Arsenal. Sunday is another day for Arteta to show what he can do as a manager in knockout stages and cup competitions.