LONDON (AP) — 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 last 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 Arsenal needs. Liverpool could cut off another route for Arsenal to end a nine-year trophy drought when they meet in the FA Cup on Sunday.
Here are five things to know about that and the other matches in the fifth round this weekend:
For Liverpool, 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 at the north London club.
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 leader Chelsea is back at Manchester City for the second time this month. The chances of Chelsea replicating its 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.
While embroiled in a relegation dogfight, Sunderland is finding more joy away from the weekly grind of the league. There's the League Cup final to look forward to against Manchester City next month, and an FA Cup meeting with Southampton on Saturday. Sunderland will be hoping to avoid the fate of Wigan last season, with FA Cup glory followed by relegation to the second tier. The holders are still alive in this season's competition, with a trip to Cardiff.
The south Wales club hosts Wigan as it tries to restore stability following the turmoil that saw Malky Mackay fired and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer brought in as manager last month. Chief executive Simon Lim on Thursday launched a fresh attack on of Mackay's reign, denouncing the loss of more than 8.5 million pounds ($14 million) on striker Andreas Cornelius, who was bought in June and offloaded two weeks ago. Lim said the loss "is due to imprudent and careless management undertaken by the previous football management."
At least two non-Premier League teams will be in the quarterfinals. The lowest ranking team remaining in the competition is third-tier struggler Sheffield United, which hosts Nottingham Forest of the second tier on Sunday. And in an all-League Championship fixture the previous day, Sheffield Wednesday faces Charlton. The final clash of the fifth round, on Monday night, sees Premier League side Hull travel to Championship promotion hopeful Brighton.