News24

Arsenal's quest gets a boost

2009-03-16 16:46

London -  Arsenal will face a Hull side that is focused on Premier League survival when the two sides meet in the FA Cup on Tuesday with a place in the semifinals at stake.

While the Gunners are back in the Champions League places after thrashing Blackburn 4-0 on Saturday, Hull is in the midst of a relegation dogfight as memories fade of its remarkable league win at Emirates Stadium earlier this season.

Hull, which plays Wigan next weekend, is four points above the drop zone after a 1-1 draw with Newcastle at the weekend.

"The last five of the FA Cup, it's big," Hull manager Phil Brown said ahead of a game at the Emirates that will see the winner meet Chelsea for a place in the final. "But in the grand scheme of things, not as big as Wigan."

Geovanni scored in Hull's 2-1 shock victory over Arsenal in the Premier League on September 27  - only the second time the Gunners had been beaten at its new home since it opened in 2006. But Hull lost 3-1 to Arsenal at the KC Stadium on January 17.

Geovanni is keen on the Tigers reaching their first FA Cup semifinal since 1930.

"It is another game where we can prove ourselves," the Brazilian forward said. "The FA Cup is important because it can help everyone's confidence. The target is to go there and win.

"It is a big game and Wembley will be important. Everyone wants to go there. My dream is to be at Wembley."

The national stadium hosts the May final as well as next month's semifinals.

Wenger sees Theo Walcott, who turned 20 on Monday, as a vital component in ensuring Arsenal advances. The England winger made his first start in the Blackburn rout since dislocating his right shoulder in November.

"He had a good start and he became stronger and stronger," Wenger said. "He gives us something which is important as well when we play at home when he goes behind the defenders. He creates room and has a direct game. We need that."

Arsenal is yet to play at the rebuilt Wembley, having beaten Manchester United on penalty kicks in the 2005 FA Cup final at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.

Striker Nicklas Bendtner was targeted by Arsenal fans Saturday as he missed a string of chances, but Wenger is confident he can win them over just like Emmanuel Eboue did after being subjected to similar abuse.

"Bendtner will (turn things around) I am not worried about that. I was more worried about Eboue at one stage," Wenger said. "Fans want performances and that is the only way we have to respond.

"I am pleased that Eboue starts to score because it looked to us that he could never score goals. It shows as well the importance of a psychological factor because he scored last week, again this week and could have scored another one."

AP