Swansea City boss Michael Laudrup insists pressure is on Arsenal
MICHAEL Laudrup knows a thing or two about pressure — and he reckons Arsenal will be the team under strain when Swansea City visit the Emirates for an FA Cup third round replay tonight (7.30).
The Danish legend enjoyed a career at the top, playing for Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus where the expectation was always for trophies.
Laudrup understands the demands placed on a league's leading lights.
And right now he believes Arsenal will be feeling the heat.
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Arsene Wenger's side are sixth in the Premier League, a massive 21 points behind leaders Manchester United with any lingering title hopes long since dashed.
Arsenal were unceremoniously dumped out of the Capital One Cup by League Two Bradford and only the most partisan Gunner would talk up their chances in the Champions League.
The FA Cup remains their one realistic shot at silverware.
Blow it and the howls of derision hurled in Wenger's direction after Swansea's shock Premier League win at the Emirates last month will be back with a vengeance
And Laudrup knows it.
"There are only three trophies every year domestically and then one internationally and there are so many clubs that want to win them. Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham," he said.
"They can't all win something.
"There are different pressures when you're in a big team. I know, I've played in big teams.
"It's different because you have to try to win trophies every year.
"I've played for Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus.
"When we didn't win things it wasn't very good, but fortunately we won something every year."
It is approaching eight years since Arsenal last lifted a trophy.
That was an FA Cup triumph over Manchester United on penalties when the final was still held at the Millennium Stadium.
Since then their stock has fallen. Big-name stars like Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie have left without players of similar quality coming in to replace them.
Fans have been frustrated by a lack of major investment in the team and a growing number are calling for Wenger to be axed.
At Swansea, the picture could not be more different.
A feelgood factor is sweeping around the Liberty as Laudrup continues to build on a successful return to the top flight last season.
The club are handsomely placed in the table, sitting ninth with no sign of relegation worries.
They have the excitement of a Capital One Cup semi-final against Chelsea to follow next week, and the very real prospect of a showpiece appearance at Wembley given their two-goal advantage.
"Swansea are not a club where you expect trophies," said Laudrup.
"You expect the team to do as well as possible and try to stay in the Premier League for another year.
"Then in the cups we are expected to do as well as we can.
"There are games where you can say 'this is so important to us' because you need to win or you need this or that.
"But when you play a game, it's always important because everyone wants to win.
"I know that it will be the same today.
"I agree that the league is the most important thing, but that doesn't mean that you play 11 in the league and then another 11 in the cups."
Despite not being burdened by the weight of expectation, Laudrup will warn his players not to take their foot off the gas in North London.
Arsenal are a side still packing quality.
They smashed seven past Newcastle just over a fortnight ago, 12 days after hitting Reading for five.
"The easy part when you're a manager is when you play the big sides because you don't need to motivate your players," said Laudrup.
"The players know if they are a little relaxed against the big teams, you can get hurt badly.
"That, combined with our philosophy, may be a reason why we are doing well against the big teams, even in the games we lost against Tottenham and Manchester City.
"I am confident but I don't know that we will win as it is very difficult, and Arsenal, they need a trophy."
Laudrup has managed to achieve results while shuffling his squad in recent weeks.
And he is again expected to rotate this evening.
One player who will not feature is new arrival Roland Lamah as he is ineligible.
But there will be plenty of other opportunities for the Belgian, signed on an 18-month loan deal, to impress.
After that Swansea will have the option to make the move permanent.
"Because he is a foreigner we're talking about, it wouldn't be fair to him if we only did it for four months," said Laudrup.
"If it's a player that we believe in, if he has potential, then he needs some time.
"I don't think it's fair to bring in a player and then after only a few games say yes or no."
The likes of Leon Britton, Jonathan de Guzman and Danny Graham could also start after being left on the bench at Everton last weekend.
And defender Kyle Bartley is in line to make his third appearance since sealing a £1 million summer move from Arsenal.
It is at the back where Swansea have been particularly strong on their travels.
They have conceded only nine Premier League goals away from home this season — along with Arsenal, the joint lowest in the division.
"We have shown throughout the season, but particularly in the last two games, how solid we are. I have even been a bit surprised by how solid we have looked defending deep," said Swansea's boss.
"I always try to say not to defend so deep. Against Chelsea it is one thing as they don't play many balls into the box, but Everton do with a lot of big guys up there and we did great. That is really good to see.
"In 11 away games we have only conceded nine goals, which is quite good for a manager who always played further forwards."
So, Swansea head to the Emirates solid at the back and secure in the league, while Arsenal continue to wobble.
Wenger's men aim to end a three-game winless run — and claim their first trophy since 2005.