LONDON, Jan 8, (AFP): Arsenal’s sights are set on the Premier League title but Gunners defender Calum Chambers says the possibility of becoming the first club in the modern era to lift the FA Cup for a third successive season will fire their defence of the trophy.
Arsene Wenger’s side face Sunderland in the third round at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday eight months after their 4-0 victory over Aston Villa in last season’s final.
And having ended the club’s nine-year wait for a trophy by beating Hull City 12 months earlier, the Gunners last suffered defeat in the FA Cup way back in February 2013.
The north Londoners sit top of the Premier League and beat struggling Sunderland 3-1 in December, meaning they will face Sam Allardyce’s team confident of extending their impressive run.
With the Champions League due to resume next month, Arsenal’s chances of becoming the first club since Blackburn Rovers in the 1880s to make it three FA Cup wins in a row will hinge on their ability to manage the demands of competing on different fronts.
But Chambers insists there will be no lack of incentive to deliver success in the main domestic cup competition.
The centre-back, who could be handed a rare starting opportunity if Wenger rotates his squad, said: “I think for every Englishman it is a very memorable cup. It gives that edge to it so you want to win it even more.
“It would be an amazing achievement (to win it for the third time in a row) and I’m sure everyone will be everything to get there.
“I wouldn’t say we are discussing it but we are thinking about it. Anything in the cup can happen, it is not always straightforward.
“You have to have both short range and long-range goals. A long-range goal would be to break records, win trophies and do well, so I think everyone strives for that.”
Wenger has ruled out a return for Alexis Sanchez who has a hamstring problem, while Santi Cazorla and Tomas Rosicky are still out.
“Will a young player or two start? I haven’t decided yet,” Wenger said.
“The thinking is to give absolutely everything to qualify. We are the holders of the cup and I know as well by experience that it is very important that you get in the competition and that you have a successful third round.”
Meanwhile, Black Cats boss Allardyce has criticised the scheduling of the next round of Premier League matches in the mid-week following this weekend’s third round ties.
Allardyce claims it de-values the FA Cup and will force him into making several changes this weekend.
He says his priority is securing a 10th successive season of top flight football at the Stadium of Light, with his side facing a crucial visit to fellow strugglers Swansea four days after their trip to London.
Teenage defender Thomas Beadling and back-up goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, 21, are expected to be involved for the 1973 FA Cup winners.
Allardyce is unlikely to risk veteran defenders John O’Shea and Wes Brown, while nine-goal top scorer Jermain Defoe and key midfielder Lee Cattermole are also set to be rested for Wednesday’s trip to South Wales.
Injuries to Younes Kaboul, Seb Larsson and Jack Rodwell further lessen the options available to Allardyce, who said: “We’ve got a ridiculously short period of time to recover after the Arsenal cup match, so I will be making changes.
“That’s not me disrespecting the FA Cup, it’s me having to deal with the situation caused by the diabolical way the games have been scheduled. The staff are working very hard to help the lads recover.”