Just when it seemed the years of gloom – by Arsenal’s high standards – could be ending, there’s edginess and uncertainty again within the team.
The Gunners have collected just five points from their past four Premier League games to surrender the lead to Chelsea, with Manchester City and Liverpool hot on their heels.
And, having been overwhelmed 5-1 at Anfield last weekend in the league, facing Liverpool’s formidable attacking talents again is the last thing the Gunners need.
Liverpool could cut off another route for Arsenal to end a nine-year trophy drought when they meet in the FA Cup on Sunday.
For the Reds, cup glory is not the priority: it’s all about returning to the Champions League. And the five-time European champions are well-primed to collect the UEFA riches again next season, with the team currently fourth in the Premier League.
It puts the discontent among Arsenal fans into perspective. For them qualifying for the Champions League for 16 consecutive years hasn’t been enough. It’s about winning titles, something that hasn’t been achieved since the 2005 FA Cup.
Having looked so vibrant in the first half of the season, the nerves are showing in Arsene Wenger’s side. The Anfield humiliation was followed by a drab 0-0 draw at home to struggling Manchester United on Wednesday.
Arsenal and Liverpool aren’t the only top-four rivals facing off in the cup.
Premier League leaders Chelsea are back at Manchester City for the second time this month. The chances of Chelsea replicating the 1-0 win at the Etihad could be hampered if central defenders John Terry and Gary Cahill aren’t fit in time for the Saturday evening game.
At least two non-Premier League teams will be in the quarterfinals to be determined Sunday when third-tier strugglers Sheffield United host Nottingham Forest of the second tier.
And in an all-League Championship fixture the previous day, Sheffield Wednesday face Charlton.