Although Arsenal have tasted glory in the FA Cup, undoubtedly one of the most prestigious domestic cup competitions in world football, eleven times in their history, they may never get a better opportunity to make it twelve. The unpredictability of football has combined wonderfully with the magic of the FA Cup to produce a number of shock results that saw Chelsea and Manchester City knocked out by lower league opposition. They were joined by a number of top half Premier League teams who have fallen by the wayside, leaving Arsenal with a wonderful chance to repeat the feat of 2002 and 2003 by retaining their FA Cup crown. A home draw against Middlesbrough awaits in the Fifth Round, and while there is plenty of football left to be played in the competition, Arsenal could well retain the cup if they remain on top of their game like they have done in recent weeks.
It is inevitable for any team who goes on to win the FA Cup will have to beat at least one top club along the way, but the Gunners will look at the teams left in the hat and realise there is a wonderful opportunity to win more silverware. With several bottom half Premier League teams, four Championship clubs and two representatives from League One playing in the Fifth Round next weekend, Arsenal must fancy their chances of reaching another Wembley Final in May. Manchester United and Liverpool may still be in the competition, but neither are entirely at the peak of their powers and both are drawn away whilst the Gunners are at home. Indeed Brendan Rogers team face a particularly tricky tie away at a Crystal Palace side re-vitalised under Alan Pardew and where their tilt at the Premiership efffectively ended in 2014.
Despite the weekend disappointment Arsenal, have been in irresistible form at the home as the recent 5-0 demolition of Aston Villa at the Emirates perfectly demonstrated Previously they had swept aside Stole so it seems that the Gunners have begun to hit top form at just the right time of the season. Although the Premier League title is always undoubtedly the main target for Arsene Wenger and his players at this stage I believe winning the FA Cup carries equal merit and significance, and we should consider ourselves strong favourites to go all the way. as the manager has acknowledged.
No room for complacency
Arsenal will undoubtedly be strong favourites to overcome Aitor Karanka’s Middlesbrough side on home soil, but the Championship visitors should not be under-estimated by any means. The Teessiders proved their qualities in the previous round when they knocked out Manchester City at the Etihad, while they continue to enjoy a super season that may result in promotion back to the Premier League.
Middlesbrough carry a considerable threat on the counter attack as they break with real pace, while a superb defensive resolve has resulted in having the best defensive record in the Championship. They will undoubtedly arrive at the Emirates with a ‘nothing to lose’ approach and give it a real go, meaning that Arsenal will have to be on top of their game if they have any aspirations of moving a step closer to retaining the FA Cup.