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Mikel Arteta knows what FA Cup pressure feels like as Arsenal face Liverpool with the spotlight on him once again

MIKEL ARTETA is used to feeling the heat before an FA Cup game.

It is four months shy of a decade since the Spaniard captained Arsenal to victory at Wembley – coming from 2-0 down to beat Hull City 3-2.

Mikel Arteta captained Arsenal to the FA Cup under Arsene Wenger in 2014

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Mikel Arteta captained Arsenal to the FA Cup under Arsene Wenger in 2014Credit: AP:Associated Press
Arteta lifted the trophy as manager in 2020 to ease pressure during his reign

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Arteta lifted the trophy as manager in 2020 to ease pressure during his reignCredit: Getty

It was a victory that ended the club’s nine-year wait for a major trophy, easing the pressure and strain on legendary boss Arsene Wenger.

Arteta smiled when recollecting: “The feeling in that dressing room, we wanted to do it for Arsene. I remember talking about it with a lot of the players.

“They were a few difficult years and we wanted to deliver for him. It was a way of giving something back.”

Six years later, Arteta emulated the great Frenchman by leading Arsenal to more FA Cup glory, this time as manager – at a time when his own position was being questioned.

Coming from behind again, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s second half winner saw off Chelsea 2-1, albeit at an empty Wembley in the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Arteta recalled: “I was very nervous. You are so willing to make that next step and bring silverware to the club. We didn’t want to let anyone down. It was really reinforcing.”

And so, here we are again. Another FA Cup clash and another testing period in Arteta’s North London reign, with questions being asked once more.

Two successive Premier League defeats have seen Arsenal drop from a Christmas Day top spot to fourth – with current leaders Liverpool in town on Sunday looking to inflict more pain in the cup.

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The chance to take a dent out of a title rival is on offer, as well as the incentive of not playing again in the league until January 20th – a potentially vital break for Arsenal before getting back down to business and regaining their place atop the Prem summit.

But Arteta is refusing to be drawn into the narrative of sending Liverpool a message, insisting his only focus is on rebuilding momentum and raising spirits after losing to West Ham and Fulham.

Arteta said: “I don’t know where that confidence is – we cannot measure it. It is not a fact. It is more perception.

“All I have done is told the players how good they are, accept we haven’t hit the levels that we wanted and we move on. We need to believe again and be consistent.

“There were periods in the game against Fulham where we didn’t hit the levels that we wanted to earn the right to win a football match.

“We want to continue on that road that has taken us so far, much further than a lot of people expected or imagined and we need to continue to do that.”

Arteta will be keen to avoid a replay later this month – scuppering his plans to take his players and their families to Dubai for some winter training in the sun.

In that respect, he is expected to put out a near full-strength team with Oleksandr Zinchenko in contention to return after missing the New Year’s Day loss at Fulham.

Arteta added: “We have to give opportunities to certain players, that’s for sure.

“We have to decide whether Sunday is the right moment and environment to do that. That’s a question we will have to resolve in the next two days.”

Arsenal earned a draw on Merseyside in the Prem on December 23rd, and on whether the Emirates can ever be as hostile as Anfield, Arteta said: “It will be our own one. We are really happy with the atmosphere that we have created.

“Can we tweak it and make it even more hostile? I think we can. That’s the next step. Sunday is going to be another big one.”

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