Arsene Wenger insists Arsenal’s recent poor league form will not impact his side when they face Manchester City in Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final.
The Gunners have lost five of their last nine Premier League games to slip out of the top four, with Wenger now facing an uphill challenge to secure Champions League football for next season.
The FA Cup, a competition Wenger has won a record-equalling six times, now offers the only chance of a trophy for the Frenchman as he continues to battle against a growing minority of fans who want to see him leave.
The 67-year-old’s contract expires at the end of the campaign and, amid the dismal spell, supporters have protested against Wenger being offered a fresh deal.
But victory over City would help Wenger keep the majority on side and he believes that league form goes out of the window at this stage.
“It’s a different competition,” he said.
“Every competition brings a psychological atmosphere. We have many times seen teams not doing well in the championship and when it is a different competition suddenly they are doing very well.
“They don’t carry the negative vibes of bad experiences in this competition.”
Arsenal eased their league woes with a narrow win at relegation-threatened Middlesbrough on Monday night and Wenger hopes the resolve shown to secure three points on Teesside can help the positivity of his players.
“When you have negative results like we had it can divide or unite,” he said.
“At some stage you have to show you can fight together. Even if people will say it’s normal you win at Middlesbrough, when you go through a bad period it’s difficult in your head to win everywhere.
“The best way to win is first to show that you can fight again. People questioned our fighting spirit, rightly so, when you came out of the Crystal Palace game.
“We had to show again that we can fight together. You know as well when the team fights and doesn’t do it creates even more uncertainty. The fact they did fight and did win had a positive impact.”
The first semi-final sees Chelsea meet Tottenham in a battle between the current Premier League top two.
Any potential London derby in the final would be an attractive proposition, especially facing neighbours Spurs, but Wenger is not getting ahead of himself.
Asked if he had thought about a final against rivals Tottenham, he said: “No. Not at all.
“If we had played for example a Championship team, I would honestly say yes. Because we play City, I don’t think about it like that.
“It would be absolutely stupid to speculate on the final. Let’s first deal with City on Sunday and see what happens there. It’s really a 50-50 game. If you asked the neutrals, maybe they will say City are favourites even.”
Wenger will be without David Ospina, Lucas Perez, Danny Welbeck, Shkodran Mustafi and Jeff Reine-Adelaide at Wembley with the quintet all sidelined through injury.
It remains to be seen if he sticks with the new formation trialled at Middlesbrough, where he deployed three defenders and had both Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil playing off Olivier Giroud.