Mertesacker: Giantkillers Lincoln deserve ‘respect’

Rob McCarthy
Lincoln City: Face the Gunners this weekend

Arsenal captain Per Mertesacker admits Lincoln demand respect for their FA Cup exploits this season as the pair meet on Saturday for a place in the semi-finals.

The Gunners host the Vanarama National League leaders and go into the match as heavy favourites, despite a recent run of poor form.

Manager Arsene Wenger has come in for criticism and another protest march against his continued leadership of the team has been scheduled by supporters ahead of kick-off.

A run of five defeats in seven games has left the FA Cup as the only realistic trophy Arsenal can win this season.

But Lincoln travel to the Emirates Stadium full of confidence after upsetting the odds to win at Burnley in the previous round.

Danny Cowley’s side also saw off Championship opposition in the shape of Ipswich and Brighton to become the first non-league team in 103 years to reach the last eight.

Mertesacker knows that makes for a difficult tie after the 12-time FA Cup winners beat another non-league side, Sutton, in the last round.

“That’s what the cup’s about, that’s the beauty of it,” he said.

“They were all buzzing to meet us at Sutton. They gave us a good reception, both their players and fans. This time we know our home ground better and we are excited to play in front of our home crowd on the way to Wembley.

“But the way they went to Burnley and won, in that fashion, that needs to be respected. We cannot underestimate any side in any league in this country, and that’s what I’ve learned. When I played in the German cup, it was the same.”

Wenger is under fire following the drop in form and has yet to decide whether he will extend his stay at the Emirates Stadium beyond the end of the current season.

Lincoln could make it a week to forget for the 67-year-old after losses to Liverpool and Bayern Munich left Arsenal with the FA Cup as the only genuine silverware still on offer.

And Wenger admits his side, as overwhelming favourites, will have to deal with the pressure against the Imps.

“The FA Cup is the next game, and of course when you’ve had a disappointment like we had in the last game it’s important to respond,” he said.

“We are favourites, but when you are at a big club, you are favourites 90 per cent of the time, and you have to deal with that.

“It’s the next game and in the next game, people expect us to win, so there’s a pressure there of course.”