Wenger seeks FA Cup boost

LONDON - Arsene Wenger has challenged his Arsenal players to use the 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 today.

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.

“We have lost a little bit of confidence, you could see that against Everton because it all went bad for us.”

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.

“There is no perfect team and we will always try to improve our squad and our team. This season we lost key players at big important moments of the season, but we have to just to focus on finishing as well as we can.”

Adding to Wenger's concern is a growing list of midfield injuries which make it even harder to get back on track.

Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere remain sidelined, while Mathieu Flamini is suspended and, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Tomas Rosicky both facing late fitness tests, Aaron Ramsey is set to start for the first time since December after recovering from a thigh injury.

“We have a lot of uncertainties,” Wenger said. “At the moment we have too many players out and it is important we get them back.”

Wigan's primary concern is to win promotion via the second tier play-offs, but the fifth placed Latics could prove tricky opponents for the Gunners. – Reuters

Saturday: Wigan v Arsenal 6:07pm

Sunday: Hull City v Shef United 5:07pm

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