Wenger's got his priorities wrong, says Richard Buxton
Weakened Arsenal forced into FA Cup replay by Hull, as Wenger looks ahead to Barcelona and Man United
HULL CITY 0
There was a time when Arsene Wenger used to hold the FA Cup in high esteem.
To an extent, he still does. His Arsenal reign was, after all, saved - and nine years of trophy-less hurt ended - by winning the world's oldest cup competition.
But priorities appear to be shifting in the eyes of English football's elder statesman, less than nine months since he last triumphantly stood atop the steps of Wembley Stadium.
At the third time of asking, Hull City finally got the measure of the Gunners, in their third barren display in a fifth successive outing at the Emirates Stadium, as going all-out was replaced by a cop-out.
Arsenal once again have their eyes on the prize - just not the one which they previously coveted and subsequently retained.
As more difficult - and undeniably more enticing - challenges lie in the coming weeks, Champions League syndrome has set in again in north London.
It is a cross Wenger is forced to bear for continually prioritising dining at Europe's top table over the pursuit of silverware.
With a near decade-long trophy drought now comfortably negotiated, it remains firmly back on the agenda. Wenger is again focusing on the glamour rather than the grit.
Not even the prospect of lifting the trophy for a third successive season, eclipsing an accolade which has stood for over 130 years, can entice him into sacrificing his big guns.
Barcelona's impending visit understandably remains the bigger draw, in spite of Arsenal's unfancied status, than Hull's annual trip to the English capital.
That decision to revert to old habits has already come at a cost.
Cramming in a fifth-round replay into his side's hectic schedule was no less than Wenger's weakened team selection, with nine changes, warranted.
He may now come to regret his impassioned defence of preserving the sanctity of replays, with seemingly no end in sight to Arsenal's current fixture congestion.
The next seven days alone will see decisive tests of their credentials on multiple fronts before a prospective midweek trip to Humberside is factored into proceedings.
Negotiating past Barcelona and Manchester United before the small matter of a fiercely anticipated derby with Tottenham Hotspur, now elevated to their English Premier League title rivals, will invariably do little to further whet Wenger's appetite to reach add an FA Cup quarter-final date to his calendar.
His desperation to avoid a needlessly additional encounter told as a host of half-chances were snatched in the final stages as Eldin Jakupovic continued to repel Arsenal's ever-changing attack.
It should have been far easier than this, but Wenger's stubbornness was again the architect of his side's downfall.
He elected to sacrifice the cavalry of Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain only with little over 20 minutes of this tie remaining.
Self-preservation for a difficult night duelling with the reigning Champions League holders is unlikely to be a gamble which will pay dividends against Lionel Messi and Co.
Should they emerge from that first leg largely unscathed, Wenger will doubtless claim that it was a risk worth taking. In the grander scheme of Arsenal's season, however, it may be costlier than an additional 90 minutes.
Wenger laments Gunners' lack of cutting edge
"If we have no injuries, we can cope with the fixtures. i think FA Cup replays are a particularity of the English rules and you have to respect that. The Hull goalkeeper was outstanding and kept them in the game."
- Arsene Wenger (above) after managing his 100th FA Cup game, of which he notched 66 wins
FA Cup holders Arsenal were left frustrated in their efforts to warm up for Tuesday's Champions League meeting with Barcelona with a win as their fifth round meeting with Hull City ended goalless at the Emirates Stadium last night.
An outstanding display by Hull goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic meant Steve Bruce's under-strength side retain hope of avenging their 2014 FA Cup final defeat by Arsenal and so preventing Arsene Wenger's side becoming the first team to win the competition three years in succession since the 1880s.
The draw also ensured the strength of Wenger's belief that replays are an integral part of the FA Cup will be tested just days after he spoke out in support of such matches.
Veteran French manager Wenger, in charge of Arsenal since 1996, made his remarks earlier following reports the Football Association (FA) was considering ditching replays in the competition to ease the fixture schedule, a proposal that drew support from Hull boss Bruce.
"No, not especially good news but Hull defended very well," Wenger told BT Sport when asked about a replay.
"We were not incisive or accurate enough in our passing in the final third."
He added: "If we have no injuries, we can cope with the fixtures. I think FA Cup replays are a particularity of the English rules and you have to respect that.
"The Hull goalkeeper was outstanding and kept them in the game."
Neither manager wanted the burden of an extra game at this stage of the season, with Arsenal pushing for the Premier League title and Hull top of England's second-tier Championship.
But the Gunners, who also beat Hull in the third round of last season's FA Cup, paid the price for their failure to turn territorial dominance into goals.
The feeling that the priority for both clubs lay elsewhere was confirmed by the two line-ups.
With Barcelona due to visit for the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16 tie in three days' time, Wenger dipped deep into his squad, making nine changes to the side that started last weekend's Premier League meeting with Leicester City.
Bruce went even further, making 10 changes to his side in a bid to protect key players ahead of the midweek league trip to Ipswich Town when Hull will attempt to strengthen their bid to make an immediate return to the Premier League.
The changes inevitably affected the play, with Wenger's growing frustration reflected in the decision to introduce Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez midway through the second half.
But that wasn't enough to settle the tie in the holders' favour, with Jakupovic producing another excellent save in added time to keep Hull's hopes alive. - AFP.
BY THE NUMBERS
11: Hull City goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic (above) made 11 saves against Arsenal, the most by an opposition goalkeeper against the Gunners in any game this season.