Steven Pressley hopes 12th man pays off in FA Cup

STEVEN Pressley can’t wait to pit his wits against Arsene Wenger tonight after coming up with a cunning plan to help his Coventry City side face Arsenal in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

Coventry City manager Steven Pressley. Picture: PA
Coventry City manager Steven Pressley. Picture: PA

To prepare Coventry for their daunting test, Pressley has had his first-choice 11 playing against a team of 12 in training.

“We’ll go there with the mentality that we can pull off a giant-killing,” said the former Falkirk manager.

“It will be a great experience for the new generation of supporters who don’t remember the days when Coventry were playing in the same division as the likes of Arsenal.

“It will be a wonderful day for our young players because although there were the games against Arsenal and Spurs last season the team has changed since then, so for many of them it will be their first experience.

“And I will try to enjoy the experience of pitting my wits against Arsene Wenger.

“When it comes to English football, Arsenal have always been a side I thoroughly enjoy watching and I have got the greatest respect for the club and their manager.

“We will go there trying to enhance our reputation and the only way we will do that is if we play our normal style.

“When you play against a team as good as Arsenal it can look as if you’re playing defensively because they have so much of the ball and they push you back. But we will try to impose our own philosophy on the game – we have to, because it’s in the DNA of the club now.”

Pressley has done his homework on Arsenal and expects his League 1 players to rise to the occasion, with over 5,000 fans following them to north London. “The mood among the players is good and we’ve had some very good training sessions, very much geared to our style of play against Arsenal,” he added.

“We had an analysis meeting on Monday morning pointing out our strategy and the way we’re going to play and we’ve implemented that over the last few days on the training ground.

“We have played an 11 v 12 exercise to have overload against our players because the one thing about Arsenal is they have terrific ball retention and great movement, and we have to ensure that we adjust to that.

“So we have worked very hard doing that. I’ve shown the players videos of other teams playing against teams of that type, and we have shown them teams who have gone to The Emirates, the likes of Everton, who were very brave and passed the ball under pressure because they are one of the few teams to have got a result there this year. And that’s the way we must play.

“We must have that confidence to take the ball under pressure and play because if you don’t it becomes relentless waves of attack.”

Coventry were thumped 6-1 at The Emirates in last season’s Capital One Cup, but Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is not taking anything for granted. “Football maybe is the only sport which can make it so unpredictable and that is why it is so interesting as well,” said Wenger. “If you have two or three divisions’ difference in basketball or rugby, volleyball or handball, you cannot do it, but in football you can.”

Wenger recalled last season’s shock fifth-round exit at home to Championship side Blackburn Rovers.

He said: “It was the first time in 16 years that we lost against lower league opposition in the FA Cup, so that was a great warning. At the moment, this is just our next game and we want to win it.”

Arsenal’s Danish forward Nicklas Bendtner could well come back into the starting XI following an ankle injury, while fit-again Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain may feature.

Midfielder Thomas Rosicky, though, will be rested as he has been training in a protective mask since suffering a broken nose at Aston Villa, while Lukasz Fabianski will again be in goal as he was for the third-round win over Tottenham.