City, Arsenal seek Cup respite
Nigel de Jong believes that Manchester City's League Cup quarter-final with Arsenal provides a perfect opportunity to make up for their recent problems.
City have the chance to reach the semi-final of a major competition for the first time since 1981 when they host Arsene Wenger's side at Eastlands on Wednesday. And with a league game at home against Chelsea to come at the weekend, Dutch midfielder de Jong acknowledges that the meeting with Arsenal is an ideal way to lift the gloom generated by a run of seven straight Premier League draws.
Hughes has fielded full-strength teams in the previous two rounds, while Wenger is happy to give his young prospects a run-out in this competition. It is also another opportunity for Emmanuel Adebayor, who was given a three-match ban after being sent off in the 4-2 league win over the Gunners in September, to face his former club.
Mark Hughes' side have surrendered leads in four of their last five league matches and have had to settle for draws at home against Fulham, Burnley and, most recently, Hull. The City manager is faced with mounting speculation about his future but former Hamburg man de Jong insists that the expensively-assembled squad must take responsibility for the current problems.
And with City supporters desperate for a first piece of silverware since they won this competition in 1976, de Jong admits it is time that Hughes' team showed what they are made of. He said: "We have to sort it out. We are frustrated at the way we have played in the last couple of weeks at home. We have to dominate teams here, and that didn't happen against Hull.
"We need to pick ourselves up and look forward to the game against Arsenal. I would love to give you a reason - if I could give you the reason, we would win all of our games. Maybe there is a lack of confidence in some situations. We try to keep our confidence high, especially when we play at home.
"We are frustrated but have to continue to build for the future. There are a few factors, but we have to give more in every line of our game - midfield, defence and attack. It's a team thing and we have to work harder and harder to get where we want to be. Now it is up to us to take it on the chin and come out fighting on Wednesday."
Wenger makes no bones about the fact that the League Cup is bottom of his list of priorities, but he insists that will not affect Arsenal's determination to bounce back from Sunday's 3-0 defeat by Chelsea, which has severely dented the club's Premier League title aspirations. The Frenchman is happy to send out a selection of fringe players and the team that faces City, will also come up against Olympiacos in the UEFA Champions League next week, as the Gunners have already secured qualification to the knock-out phase.
Wenger said: "The League Cup is a competition that is not one of our priorities, but we go to Manchester City to win a game. We'll play our young players and some of them will play in the Champions League as well because we are already qualified. But losing to Chelsea was a massive disappointment. We have to deal with it and respond by trying to win our next game. It is as simple as that."
Wenger's comments were echoed by Czech midfielder Tomas Rosicky. "It will be very tough to win the title now, we know that, but to let the season fall apart now would be the biggest mistake we can make."