Friday 28 July 2017

Lincoln refuse to 'park the bus' in bid to add to Wenger's woes

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire.

Ben Burrows

A dressing-room revolt, a dismal Premier League away performance, fan protests and a Champions League last-16 exit.

Even by their own standards, it really has been the most Arsenal of weeks for Arsene Wenger and Co.

Cue the fallout, the root-and-branch review, the now daily questions on Sanchez, Ozil, Oxlade-Chamberlain and, as has become so routine, the manager's own future.

"Is he damaging his legacy? Will he stay? Will he go? Has he even decided yet?"

As battle-hardened as he may be after two decades at the game's sharp end, Wenger must be growing somewhat weary of such a well-trodden line of questioning by now.

An FA Cup win may or may not stem the tide of such queries come season's end, but with the Champions League now just a bitter memory and the chase for the top four slipping out of reach, the world's oldest cup competition could well now become the Gunners' priority as we approach the finish line.

So are Lincoln worried about an Arsenal backlash at the Emirates today? It's actually quite the opposite.

"He's under pressure," says defender Luke Waterfall. "Some Arsenal fans might be going there wanting us to win. If we start well, we might have 60,000 people behind us, not just 9,000."

The Imps have come far enough that a Premier League big boy, and one so woefully out of shape, won't be keeping them up at night.

The National League leaders are this year's story having become the first non-league team since 1914 to reach the last eight.

Now it's the 12-time winners who stand between them and a dream day out at Wembley.

They've already seen off top-tier Burnley in the last round and deservedly so over 90 rough, ready and ruthless minutes and see no reason to change their tactics now.

"We'll go there believing in ourselves. We won't park the bus, we'll play our usual game," Waterfall added. "We want their big players to play. Their manager is under pressure so I would expect their big names to play."

The man behind the Imps' fairytale run is in lockstep with his centre-back - despite admitting to being a huge fan of his opposite number - and believes the Gunners' nightmare seven days only serve to work in his team's favour.

"He's forgotten more than I know. He's a pioneer," boss Danny Cowley said of Wenger. "We've got huge respect for him as a man and as a manager.

"I think all the pressure is on Arsenal, but we try to put energy and focus into our own team.

"We're not going to fear it. We're going to embrace it and enjoy it, but we'll go there with a game plan.

"We want to be us. We've got here because of our method and the way we play.

"It would be easy to park the bus, but that's not us."

If Wenger is tired of answering questions now, lose today and he'll never hear the end of it.

Wenger is considering recalling Petr Cech to replace David Ospina, who has been struggling with a minor injury since Tuesday's heavy defeat to Bayern Munich.

Cech was frustrated at sitting out the Champions League this season and is desperate to be involved in the FA Cup, as it represents Arsenal's last chance of silverware. (© Independent News Service)

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