It’s the Emirates FA Cup Semi-Finals this weekend, and ahead of two thrilling contests at Wembley, we’re bringing you exclusive interviews with players who have been there and done it.
Giving us their opinion on Arsenal’s chances against Manchester City is Ray Parlour.
And there are few players who can match the midfielder’s four FA Cup wins.
Here’s how it went when Ladbrokes News spoke to the man who scored that goal in the 2002 final…
Ladbrokes News: Ray, we’ve got a thriller in store when Arsenal meet Manchester City this Sunday for a place in the Emirates FA Cup Final. How do you see it playing out?
Ray Parlour: I think it will be a close one. They drew 2-2 earlier this month and I think we’ll see a few more goals this weekend too, as both teams are very attack-minded.
Defensively neither side have been the best. I know Vincent Kompany is back for Manchester City and they got a clean sheet against Southampton – which was a bonus for Guardiola – but we know just how good City are going forward.
They’ve got so many options. I think Leroy Sane has been great this year, then you’ve got Kevin de Bruyne, you’ve got Raheem Sterling, you’ve got Sergio Aguero and David Silva.
The list of how many good players they can call upon is endless.
But hopefully for Arsenal, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil can be on top form on the day. They both scored on Monday versus Middlesbrough so hopefully they can turn up at Wembley and be the match-winners.
I think it will be a really entertaining game – I think both semi-finals are set-up to be classics – and we know that whatever happens this weekend we will have a fantastic final to look forward to.
LN: Arsene Wenger surprised us all by going 3-4-3 for Monday’s win over Middlesbrough. Could we see that again this weekend?
RP: Maybe that’s a criticism of Arsene Wenger in recent years is that he’s so often gone with the same personnel and the same formation, so it was interesting to see him go 3-4-3 on Monday.
That could be how it goes on Sunday. They know Man City are a threat going forward, but then Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain looked good going forward against Middlesbrough, so if Wenger goes 3-4-3 maybe that’s something he’s looking to exploit.
But that’s what you want to see, you want to see managers mix it up and change things around.
Look at what Jose Mourinho did at the weekend against Chelsea, he put two up front and Man United dominated that game.
So that’s what you’ve got to have in your locker, an ability to react to different scenarios and change it up.
It will be interesting to see what he does at the weekend. Will he stick with Olivier Giroud up front? Or will Wenger move Sanchez up top with his extra movement?
You’d imagine Kompany would rather play against Giroud given the way he plays, whereas Sanchez is always on the move, coming short, dropping deep, running in behind and looking for the ball.
But with the bench Wenger has, he should be able to change it however the game plays out this weekend.
LN: Arsenal are the 4/1 outsiders to win the Emirates FA Cup, do you agree with those odds?
RP: Yeah I can see why Arsenal are the outsiders – they’re arguably the one side not in form. But I can imagine plenty of punters will be backing them to win it at that price.
Tottenham are in mega form, but I can understand why Chelsea are the shorter odds. I think Conte will feel the Man United game was a blip so it’s time for them to bounce back.
I think it’s going to be very close, and you just don’t know how it’s going to go.
LN: The semi-final line-up is arguably the strongest in years, what do you make of it?
RP: The FA Cup was always the biggest trophy for me growing up as a kid, and I’ve been lucky enough to play in five finals – scoring in one! – and it was always a great day out for everyone at the club.
Everyone at the club would be involved, from players and manager down to the tea ladies and kit staff – and they’d bring their whole families too!
It was a magical day for everyone. If you won the cup then even better, but either way it was a great day out.
It really is a wonderful competition and it still is today. Look at that semi-final line-up, it’s fantastic.
Hopefully on the day Arsenal can turn up, they’ve got a great record in the Emirates FA Cup as we know, and hopefully they can get to that final.
Both of the semi-finals will be absolutely brilliant and the FA Cup will be the headline story this weekend. It’s going to be great seeing who makes it to the final.
LN: Finally Ray, how are you calling Sunday’s clash?
RP: You’ve got to look to Sanchez to do the business for Arsenal. He did it on Monday with a free-kick out of nothing.
So if he’s on form, and Ozil is there too then the Gunners will be hard to stop.
For City, I know they’ve got Aguero and De Bruyne, but Silva could be the man. He’s a tremendous player, if he can get on the ball he can really pull the strings and dictate games.
If he can do that then City could really flow, so Arsenal will have to a close eye on where Silva is this weekend.
But if you’re asking for a prediction then I’ve got to go with Arsenal to win it 2-1! There will be a few goals but I fancy the Gunners to nick it!
Click here for all the latest Emirates FA Cup odds.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing