Only four days have passed since Arsenal finally ended their trophy drought, and to be frank, I still can’t get enough. Before you say anything, no – it was not the Emirates Cup; neither was it the imaginative ‘fourth place trophy’ we seem to win every season. Instead, it was real success: the prestigious FA Cup. On May 17th, the Gunners officially put their nine-year hiatus of silverware to bed, and ended one of the most torrid and difficult periods ever experienced in the club’s history in the process.
The streak was broken in a risky fashion; I, along with every other Arsenal fan, knew that the final was not going to be an easy ride, and that proved to be the case. Prior to the match, flashbacks of Arsenal beating Hull City 3-0 almost three weeks ago at their home ground got some fans predicting a similar outcome. However, in a situation like this, it seemed more appropriate to remember that dreaded day in February 2011 when Laurent Koscielny and co failed to secure a victory against underdogs and relegation candidates Birmingham City in the Carling Cup final. That match was forever embedded in the memory of every Gooner, and it was suddenly brought back to the fore when Arsenal did the unthinkable and managed to concede two goals in the first eight minutes of this year's FA Cup final. Thus, the 120 minutes that would take the whole of North London through both high and low moments from start to finish had begun.
The pressure was relentless at 2-0 down, but the match was given a sense of excitement with Santi Cazorla’s first set-piece goal for the club, from a beautifully pinpointed free kick that was produced at the right place at the right time – it was pure class. Then followed a long struggle to get the equaliser, which finally arrived in the 72nd minute, when Koscielny managed to bundle the ball over the line from a tame header. Emotions were high and Hull were looking slightly exhausted from the ordeal of letting a two-goal lead slip away. The match then carried into extra time, and Arsenal were trying all sorts of ideas to achieve the winning goal. At this point, I did not want to see my team go into a penalty shootout and face a ghost of their past – I think I would have given up all hope. In the end, though, came the joyful moment which got every Arsenal fan (especially me) off their seat: Aaron Ramsey, at the end of a phenomenal year, latched onto an intuitive back heel from Olivier Giroud in the box and placed it into the bottom corner of the net with his first touch. It was ecstasy for the folk donning the red and white, and it was a dream come true for the boy from Cardiff, who has produced similar eye-catching moments like this all season – no surprise that he has been our player of the season. With that, the memory of Birmingham was banished and now was the time for the club to celebrate a record 11th FA Cup title, equalling Manchester United’s record.
To put this trophyless drought into perspective, I was 14 and starting my GCSEs when Arsenal had last won a trophy. Everyone will have their story and say what they have achieved in the last nine years, but it really does shed light on the seriousness of the situation. The dust had to be wiped away from the empty trophy cabinet; although if the unthinkable had happened and Hull had won, there’s no doubt that serious questions would have been asked regarding the squad and Wenger’s ability to bring silverware to the club.
In the end, a huge burden has been taken off everyone involved with the club. It’s now vital for Arsenal to build on the foundations laid with this successful cup run, and they need to play this card well in the upcoming transfer window. It’s obvious that a smart investment is needed in key areas; notably a new striker or two, a deep-lying midfielder, a right-back (now that Sagna is leaving), and a goalkeeper, as Lukasz Fabianski has confirmed that he has played his last game for the club.
However, only time will tell how Wenger will assess the situation. He will know that leading the Premier League table for over 100 days and yet scrambling to end up fourth after flirting dangerously with fifth is bitterly disappointing. Wenger can take a deep breath and clear his mind after winning this trophy, but he must start making fresh arrangements for next season as soon as possible because the top dogs aren’t going to sit and stay quiet. The race has already begun for next season, and they will all be gunning to take Arsenal’s FA Cup crown - that’s for sure.