Arsenal will not compromise title bid: Arsene Wenger puts FA Cup on the back burner with reserves set to tackle West Ham

Arsene Wenger has reassured Arsenal fans he can understand their love affair
with the FA Cup, but insists the Gunners must not compromise their fight for the
Barclays Premier League title.

The last trophy Wenger won was the FA Cup in 2005 - a fourth under his tenure.

Arsenal gave their supporters a day out at Wembley last season when reaching
the semi-finals, before being beaten by Chelsea after taking the lead.

Alexandre Song battles for the ball with Mark Noble

On Song: Cameroon midfielder Alex Song will play at Upton Park before heading off to Angola but Arsene Wenger is set to rest his other big guns for Sunday's tie

While Wenger can understand the need for another decent run in the world's oldest knockout competition, which starts at West Ham on Sunday, sustaining their challenge for the championship must come first.

Victory at bottom club Portsmouth on Wednesday night made it five wins from the last six league games, and crucially cut the deficit to leaders Chelsea to just four points.

Arsenal can reduce that further by winning their match in hand against struggling Bolton at Emirates Stadium next week.

Captain Cesc Fabregas and fellow midfielder Denilson have, along with England forward Theo Walcott, been ruled out of the trip to Upton Park.

Alex Song is available before he heads off to the African Nations Cup with Cameroon, while veteran defender Mikael Silvestre and reserve goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski could both also feature as the Gunners boss keeps one eye on the Premier League campaign.

'I will have to rest some players, that is for sure,' said Wenger.

'We want to win, but we want to protect our home games against Bolton and Everton as well, to keep the momentum going.

'The Premier League is always more important [than the FA Cup], but, in the eyes of the fans, we are looking for trophies.

Arsene Wenger
Arsene Wenger

No brainer: Wenger wants silverware - but would prefer the Premier League title

'However, the Premier League is so hard that you want to take care of your position.

'Two years ago we had a very good chance [at the title], and we were not far away.

'At the moment we have to keep our spirit and out attitude, then we have a chance.'

Wenger added: 'A season is judged on the overall achievement, and people look to who has won the trophies - but I also look at how we have done and how consistently we have played.

West Ham boss Gianfranco Zola

Relax: Wenger has told Zola not to worry about the FA Cup and focus on West Ham's survival campaign

'This team is enjoyable to watch, but also to manage because I want to win every game.'

Despite openly admitting he is set to make changes, Wenger will not simply pack the team with youngsters, as he does in the Carling Cup on a regular basis.

'For us, the Carling Cup is exclusively for young players and the FA Cup is one to win,' the Arsenal manager said.

'But we have worked for that policy, and it is not a coincidence. There is four or five years of hard work and patience behind that.

'Players are better at 19 than they are at 18, and better at 21 than at 19.

'We have so many players that we have a hard time finding them a chance to play.'

Wenger has plenty of empathy for West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola, whose side are struggling to keep out of the relegation zone.


The Hammers battled back from 2-0 down to rescue a point from their league meeting between the two sides in October.

'I think the pressure on Zola is more on the championship, because of West Ham's position, and less on the FA Cup,' said Wenger.

'It is more important that they keep their position in the Premier League.'

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