Aaron Ramsey has urged Arsenal to hit back at their critics by beating Manchester City in Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final to help salvage their season.
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger has come under mounting pressure to walk away from the club when his contract expires in June after a run of seven defeats in 13 matches which has left his team scrambling for a top four finish in the Premier League.
Fan protests are a regular feature at matches while ex-players have rounded on the current squad in recent weeks but after battling past Middlesbrough on Monday night, Ramsey believes defeating City can help Arsenal end the campaign on a high.
“This is massive for us,” he said. “It’s going to be important for us to finish the season strongly and hopefully have a final to look forward to. It has been a quite difficult season.
“There are a lot of things being said at the moment but we have to stand up for ourselves and get back on track as quickly as possible. There’s still a lot at stake and it’s important now to put ourselves right.
“City have got a world-class manager [Pep Guardiola], who has proven how good he is and they have a lot of exceptional players who can produce something out of nothing. They’re a very dangerous team.
“You’ve seen on some occasions the quality football that they’ve played. We’ll have to be wary; they have great players who are very experienced and hungry and we’ll have to match that.”
Arsenal have won the FA Cup twice in the last three years – Ramsey scored an extra time winner against Hull in 2014 – but the Welshman’s personal affinity with the competition dates back to January 2008, when he made his full Cardiff debut in a third-round tie against non-League side Chasetown.
In Pictures | Arsenal training session | 20/04/2017
It was the start of a run which took Cardiff all the way to the final, a game in which he made a 29-minute cameo as a 17-year-old as Harry Redknapp’s Portsmouth secured a 1-0 win.
“I think because I was younger I was just enjoying every moment of it and took it in my stride really,” he said.
“I was just itching to get out there and perform. I had half an hour at the end to go out and show what I could do, so I was very grateful of the opportunity.
“It was a great moment for me and the club. It has definitely helped me get used to the surroundings at an early age and experience what it’s like to play in that sort of pressure game.
“I love this competition. It has been good for me. I’ve played in three finals, and hopefully I could be lifting the cup for the third time.”
Read the full interview with Ramsey, alongside exclusive features with Kieran Gibbs, Arsene Wenger, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane in the official Emirates FA Cup semi-final programme, available for £5 at Wembley on Sunday.