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All Guns Blazing: Luck’s catching Arsenal up in FA Cup

12:56 18 February 2015

Arsenal

Arsenal's Patrick Vieira and Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo battle for the ball in the 2005 FA Cup final. Picture: Neal Simpson/PA

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In our weekly Arsenal fan column, Alex Bellotti says that the Gunners will have to overcome their mental barrier against Manchester United to leave Old Trafford with a result.

Karma has a funny way of coming back around. As hard- fought as Arsenal’s FA Cup triumph was last season, there was a great deal of fortune that came our way during the run, and now it’s catching up.

Throughout the entire competition, we never had to leave London, nor did we have to face any of the previous season’s top three teams. Most fortuitously, during our home game against Liverpool, the visitors were denied a stonewall penalty to equalise late on – but this season, the Merseysiders have progressed with an easy-looking home draw, safe in the knowledge that their two main rivals have to go head to head.

There’s no doubt that Manchester United away is a fixture best avoided but, looking at it objectively, Arsenal should feel they have a good chance. Not only did United struggle to progress against Preston, but all season they have routinely fallen short of anything close to a convincing performance.

The problem is that, as in Alex Ferguson’s final campaign, they have kept winning regardless – and against us their record, even under duds like David Moyes, is annoyingly consistent.

It seems to be a mental thing, and when we face them on March 9, it will be that factor rather than ability or form that will prove decisive. Channelling some of the tactical nous we showed at Manchester City will be vital, but as I suggested the other week, the blue side of Manchester has always proved a happier hunting ground than the red and this test will certainly be a tougher psychological hurdle to overcome.

Ultimately, as a fan, there are plenty of reasons why we have to win it. Like Liverpool or United, the FA Cup now looks like our only realistic chance of silverware this season and as holders, you don’t want to relinquish that grip.

If United were to win it, they’d become the most successful team in the competition’s history; conversely, the same could be said of us. Furthermore, just the pant-wetting annoyance of Liverpool fans ending their relative trophy drought with Stevie G bowing out on his birthday is too much to fathom.

Unlike in previous seasons, the full-strength side we fielded against Middlesbrough suggests Arsene Wenger is prioritising the FA Cup again. Even if it means securing a return game at the Emirates, though, this next match feels like one we really can’t afford to lose.

Follow me @alexbellotti

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