London: Arsene Wenger has challenged his Arsenal players to use Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against holders Wigan to lift their shattered spirits.
Wenger’s side head to Wembley with their confidence in tatters after a miserable run ended their hopes of winning the Premier League and left them fighting to secure qualification for the Champions League.
Last weekend’s chastening 3-0 defeat at Everton was a major blow to the Gunners’ hopes of securing a top-four finish and the squad’s morale is at a low ebb following the latest in a long line of big game flops this season.
Arsenal had already been thrashed at Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea, but it is the loss to Everton which could prove the most costly as the Toffees will climb above them into fourth place if they beat Sunderland on Saturday.
In the circumstances, Wenger knows Arsenal desperately need the confidence boost of moving a step closer to winning a major trophy for the first time since they last lifted the FA Cup in 2005.
“What is important after our performance against Everton is to respond well. That’s where our future lies, is our capacity to respond with a strong performance and that is the next game and the next game is the FA Cup,” Wenger said.
Arsenal’s Spanish midfielder Santi Cazorla added to the sense that their season is in danger of imploding when he was quoted this week saying he may consider leaving because his team-mates “haven’t got a winning mentality”.
And even Wenger, usually so upbeat when asked about his team’s flaws, struggled to retain his positive outlook as he contemplated a stressful end to the season.
“When results are not going as well, you can always think you can improve,” he said.