London - Arsene Wenger insists the allure of the FA Cup
remains strong despite fresh claims that the famous old competition has lost
Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce has been infuriated by the
Premier League's decision to put a round of fixtures in midweek following the
third round and suggested the move was a further sign of a lack of respect for
the FA Cup.
Allardyce says he has no choice but to field a weakened team
when Sunderland face Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium in the third round on
Saturday as his side, who sit 19th in the Premier League, face a crucial trip
to fellow strugglers Swansea on Wednesday.
But Arsenal boss Wenger, whose side hope to become the first
club since Blackburn in 1886 to win the FA Cup in three successive seasons, has
dismissed the idea out of hand and believes the well-worn 'magic of the cup'
label is still true for all of the teams taking part in the 145-year-old
competition this weekend.
When asked what impact the midweek Premier League games will
have on the FA Cup, he replied: "None, I don't see why the FA Cup should
be ostracised or be neglected because of the Premier League.
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"When you play in the Champions League, you play on a
Wednesday. In the Premier League, you play on a Saturday. Why should you not
play Saturday, Tuesday or Wednesday? It's no problem.
"The FA Cup is a great competition. I'm not sure that
Sunderland will field a weaker a team. We take care of this competition like
"Everybody dreams of winning the FA Cup. There may be
some priorities at some stage of the season for some clubs who think they are
in trouble and have to make these kinds of decisions, so they choose."
The visit of Sunderland to the Emirates is one of five
all-top-flight ties in round three.
- Cup specialists -
Manchester City, three points below Arsenal in the league,
visit Norwich City, while high-flying Leicester City visit fourth-place
Leicester will be without 15-goal top scorer Jamie Vardy,
who is due to undergo minor groin surgery, but the England striker is expected
to be fit for the teams' reunion in the league three days later.
The other all-Premier League affairs see Southampton host
Crystal Palace and Newcastle United visit Watford.
Manchester United also face lower-league opposition in the
form of third-tier cup specialists Sheffield United, who reached the League Cup
semi-finals last season and the FA Cup last four the year before.
League champions Chelsea, meanwhile, have a home game with
Scunthorpe United, as interim manager Guus Hiddink looks to emulate his feat of
2009 by leading the west London club to FA Cup glory.
"We can go far in the FA Cup and hopefully we can win
it," says goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, whose side continue to flounder in
14th place in the league.
"With the FA Cup and Champions League it can still be a
positive season, especially if we end up in the top four in the league."
Perhaps the best chance of an upset will be at Ten Acres on
the south coast, modest home of fifth-tier Eastleigh, the lowest-ranked team
left in the tournament.
The non-league side host four-time FA Cup winners Bolton
Wanderers, who are bottom of the Championship and on the brink of bankruptcy.
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