Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Cup Tonic Has Given Revitalised Gunners a Thirst for Revenge

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Cup Tonic Has Given Revitalised Gunners a Thirst for Revenge

Article excerpt

Byline: James Olley

With Wembley hopes helping to turn Arsenal's form around, they can erase a painful memory tonight. By James Olley

THE SEMI-FINALS ARSENAL or HULL CITY v CHELSEA MAN UTD v EVERTON (Ties to be played on 18 & 19 Apr)

THE contrasting fortunes that Arsenal and Hull find themselves in tonight compared to when the visitors triumphantly strode off the Emirates Stadium pitch in September suggests the natural footballing order is slowly being restored.

Although there has always been a suspicion of naivety in the Tigers' open approach, early victories at Arsenal, Tottenham and at home to West Ham suggested Phil Brown's side could emulate Reading by comfortably defying the odds through attacking football in their debut Premier League season.

Given the Gunners' early loss at Fulham, a 2-1 home defeat to one of the division's new boys cast serious doubts over their ability to compete on any front for silverware.

Subsequent shambles against Stoke, Aston Villa and Manchester City only strengthened the arguments for an Arsenal implosion, while the debacle surrounding William Gallas after the 4-4 draw with Tottenham and the end of his captaincy threatened to tear Arsenal apart from within.

Fast forward five months and Hull are doing their best to arrest a seemingly inexorable slide into the Championship, while Arsene Wenger's side suddenly look capable of cup success at home and in Europe with a momentum in the League that threatens to restore the top four to its traditional composition just in time for the prize-giving.

Everything, then, appears to point to a home win -- especially given Brown is likely to rest a host of his regular first-teamers -- but Wenger admits the pain of that League defeat still weighs heavily on his mind.

"It was one of our lowest days of the season when they beat us," he said. "But it is not the only one -- we were 4-2 up against Tottenham but they came back to 4-4 and we were 2-0 up at Villa but then they come back to draw 2-2.

"It was a very disappointing day against Hull because if we won that game we would have gone top of the League. They are a different side now because at that time they were flowing and full of confidence." Confidence has been key to Arsenal's resurgence and the FA Cup has played an integral part in re-energising their pursuit of Aston Villa for fourth spot.

Sir Alex Ferguson used the League Cup to revitalise a faltering Manchester United in 2003. Although they lost the final to Liverpool, United played a stronger side than usual in the competition and used the momentum of a cup run to overhaul the Gunners and secure a title that had seemed all but impossible at Christmas.

Four successive draws preceded the 4-0 drubbing of Cardiff in the fourth round as Arsenal's season began to stutter into life, with improved displays against Roma and West Brom mixed with disappointing draws with Sunderland and Fulham. …

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