LONDON: Flummoxed by a rearguard action from Championship leaders Hull City in the FA Cup on Saturday, manager Arsene Wenger knows his Arsenal side must sharpen up for next week’s Champions League last-16 clash with Barcelona.
While the Frenchman made nine changes to the team that beat Premier League leaders Leicester City a week ago, they still unleashed the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Olivier Giroud off the bench but it was to no avail as the fifth-round tie ended 0-0.
Holders Arsenal enjoyed plenty of the ball on a dreary afternoon at the Emirates Stadium and were unable to find a way past Hull’s massed defences, a worry for Wenger with a bigger test just around the corner.
“We need to be more efficient in the final third because today we had more than 70 percent possession and we will not have that on Tuesday night,” Wenger told reporters.
“That means we’ll have to be more efficient with much less of the ball.”
Taking on Barca in a first-leg tie will certainly be a different challenge to the one Hull posed on Saturday when at times it resembled a defence versus attack training-ground exercise.
“On Tuesday night we’ll need great solidarity because we’ll need to defend well and make the maximum of our possession, which we didn’t do today,” added Wenger whose 2014 and 2015 winners had won their previous 14 FA Cup ties.
Even when Arsenal did get a clear sight of goal, Hull’s inspired reserve keeper Eldin Jakupovic kept them out.
His best moment was finger-tipping Joel Campbell’s second-half free kick against the post.
Jakupovic also denied Sanchez in a frantic finale as Arsenal sought to spare themselves a replay date in what will be a demanding month ahead on the domestic and European front.
“It’s not what we planned but in football it doesn’t always go like that,” Wenger said. “It’s how you respond and how you find the solution to what we face now.
“It means we have to go to Hull and we have to qualify.”