x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Top-four finish still Arsenal's aim, says Arsene Wenger

The Frenchman said the Premier League takes priority over the FA Cup for the Gunners ahead of their fourth-round clash with Aston Villa.

Arsene Wenger said the Premier League takes priority over the FA Cup for Arsenal, even though the chances of success in the latter are heightened with holders Manchester City and Premier League champions Manchester United already out of the competition.

Arsenal host Aston Villa in the fourth round tonight looking to lift morale following a third straight league defeat, 2-1 at home to Manchester United last weekend, which saw them fall five points behind fourth-place Chelsea.

Wenger, 62, has won the famous old trophy no fewer than four times since taking charge of the London club in 1996. The last came seven years ago, and there has not been a trophy since.

The Arsenal manager, however, said he would not take cup glory at Wembley Stadium in May ahead of securing another campaign in the Champions League.

"I have always told you exactly the same, the priority is be in the top four," Wenger said. "In recent years I felt that we produced always the consistency at the top, top level and it is not enough for some people maybe, but for me that is the brand of a top-level club - consistency in the top four."

Wenger added: "I love the FA Cup, I think it is a top-level competition and I will always fight to win it.

"I won it four times and lost one final, and I don't know how many semi-finals. I always try to win every single competition.

"If you look at my record you will see the FA Cup is important for me. I think our record is better than all of them over the past 15 years. Even last year we went for four trophies. How many teams go for four trophies this season? Nobody.

"We always try to go for everything and for a long, long time last year we went for trophies late in the season, and still we will try to do the same and try to win the FA Cup."

Laurent Koscielny, the French defender, has been in England for only two years but the world's oldest knockout competition has already left its mark.

He told his club's official website: "I know in England that winning the FA Cup is a very big trophy for the team. We all want to go as far as possible in this competition." Arsenal have some of their defenders closing in on a return to fitness, with full-back Bacary Sagna - out since the defeat at Tottenham Hotspur in October because of a broken fibula - having an outside chance of being included in the squad this afternoon.

However, the midfielder Jack Wilshere has suffered a setback in his planned return from ankle surgery.

Meanwhile, Alex McLeish believes Aston Villa should approach today's match at Emirates Stadium with no fear.

The Villa manager feels that Arsenal will be the team under pressure and their players aware of the need to halt their recent poor run of results.

McLeish also has the memory of triumphing over Arsenal in last season's Carling Cup final, when he was the Birmingham City manager.

Also, Villa won 2-1 in the league when they visited Emirates Stadium last season.

"I am sure the lads will remember what they have done at the Emirates before," McLeish said.

"Statistics don't determine the outcome of this latest encounter but it does offer the players evidence they can do it against the best of the Arsenal teams.

"We have to be at our best defensively because they have some great attackers. But we have attackers ourselves who can also hurt people."