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Champions League Qualifying Play-Offs Round

Cup quest can't be priority

FanZone's Arsenal blogger JC London says FA Cup success should be a serious target for the Gunners - but not at the cost of a top-four spot.

Last Updated: 19/02/13 at 11:48 Post Comment

Arsenal: FA Cup winners in 2005

Arsenal: FA Cup winners in 2005

We've all heard the spiel before; it has come to symbolise the last seven years of Arsene Wenger's reign. Fourth place is 'like a trophy'.

With an entirely winnable (save some Bradford style theatrics) FA Cup game this weekend, the race for fourth spot heating up, and the small issue of a tie against Bayern Munich next week, the debate about which is more important has reared its ugly head again.

Let's get the blindingly obvious out of the way, shall we? There is no ACTUAL trophy for finishing fourth. There's no trip to Wembley, no open-top bus parade, and no silver cup to go in the cabinet.

There is, however, a prize - Champions League football. For me, and in no way do I claim the voice of all Gooners, it really is that simple. Fourth place means Champions League football; win the FA Cup, and you get a competition that Martin O'Neil valued less than a trip to Portsmouth.

The Europa League (or whatever it's called this year - I never bother to keep up with its various incarnations) is more punishment than prize. It's like when you were little and your parents told you to 'be careful of what you wish for'. You wished for European football, so here is an away trip to FC Shamalabadingdong 48 hours before you have to play Chelsea in the league.

Yeah, no thanks. Honestly, I'd much rather we were able to fully focus on the league than have the hassle of playing Thursday night games against teams nobody has ever heard of, in countries that only came into existence the previous teatime.

Next comes the 'winning a cup provides great moments and memories for the fans, in a way that coming fourth does not' argument.

With no respect whatsoever, I call that rubbish. The 5-2 win against Spurs last year that turned our season around is a case in point. And let us not forget all the great Champions League moments that come along with fourth place. The defeat of Barcelona at the Emirates in 2011 is the stand-out candidate, but victories over Inter and AC Milan, Juventus and Madrid all spring to mind as truly great moments to be a Gooner.

Of course, many people will argue, and quite rightly so, that it really shouldn't be an 'either or' situation. A team of Arsenal's stature should be able to challenge for fourth while maintaining a cup run.

This is true, and while we are frequently in the latter stages of the Capital One Cup and our consistency of reaching the knockout stages of the Champions League is second to none, at some point a decision to prioritise has to be made. Players have to be rested and squads rotated, as games begin to come thick and fast. It is at moments like that when the simple fact that Champions League football is more important than any domestic cup comes to the fore.

Don't get me wrong, I would love for Arsenal to win the FA Cup this year. In much the same way, I would love to have both vanilla and chocolate ice-cream. But, if I really had to choose, I wouldn't even hesitate.

I suspect 'Le Professeur' wouldn't either, so be prepared for a rotated squad to take the field against Blackburn.

By JC London, FanZone's Arsenal blogger. Follow @FanZone on Twitter!

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