Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger pins hopes on FA Cup for silverware
Arsene Wenger's record in the FA Cup means the competition will always be special to the Arsenal manager, but this season it could be critical to his efforts to prove he is still the right man to lead the club.
Wenger has already emerged from one sustained bout of criticism this season that intensified when his side were beaten at home last month by Swansea.
A month on from that defeat, Arsenal will head to South Wales for today's FA Cup third-round meeting with Swansea in better shape following an improved run of form in the league.
However, they remain in sixth place in the Premier League, 18 points adrift of the leaders Manchester United and destined once again to play a supporting role in the title race.
Eliminated from the League Cup by League Two minnows Bradford and facing Bayern Munich in the last 16 of the Champions League, the FA Cup represents Arsenal's best chance of ending their eight-year wait for silverware.
Their last trophy came in this competition in 2005 - the fourth time Wenger had lifted the cup with Arsenal - and another triumph this season would rekindle some of the support the manager has lost in recent years. An early exit though, would put increased pressure on the Frenchman's transfer dealings this month, with Arsenal's supporters frustrated at the failure to adequately replace favourites like Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas.
And Wenger, who has allowed striker Marouane Chamakh to join West Ham on loan until the end of the season, admits this is not a time to rest players.
"I will play the team I think has the best chance to win the game, without considering any rotational desire," Wenger said.
"The FA Cup is something special. It is watched all over the world and it has a special history in England, which I have always respected.
"I am always sad when we don't win it or when we go out and we will put in our maximum effort to win the game."
Swansea's victory at the Emirates Stadium will ensure Arsenal approach the game with a degree of trepidation.
And Swans boss Michael Laudrup is in no doubt the pressure will be on Wenger's side.
"When you are a top team, you are obliged to at least compete until the end to win things," Laudrup said.
"They are expected to at least be in the semi-finals, so there is more pressure on Arsenal than on Swansea."