London: Arsenal will need no reminder of the pitfalls in store for them at Wembley Stadium on Saturday where they will be favourites to beat Hull City in the FA Cup final and claim their first silverware for nine years.
Three years ago Arsene Wenger’s side were also expected to beat Birmingham City in the League Cup final but a late goal by Obafemi Martins after a calamitous defensive mix-up ruined the script and prolonged the fans’ suffering.
Since then manager Arsene Wenger’s long reign at the club has occasionally been questioned by even some of his most loyal disciples, with some advocating a change of direction.
Arsenal’s annual qualification for the Champions League, now standing at 17 seasons, continues to justify the club hierarchy’s faith in the wily Frenchman, although every year that passes without a trophy appears to add another wrinkle to Wenger’s face.
Wenger has been at pains to play down the significance of Saturday’s result, saying it will have no bearing on his ongoing contract discussion, but the 64-year-old is fooling no one as Arsenal bid for a record-equalling 11th FA Cup.
Defeat by a Hull side appearing in their first FA Cup final would re-open the debate about his future. Victory, following a fourth-placed finish in the Premier League having challenged strongly for the title for two thirds of the season, would reinforce the belief that Wenger is still the man to mastermind a golden new era for the Gunners.
“Our target is to win the trophies but you judge the quality of the teams and their potential over the Premier League results,” Wenger, who won the Cup with Arsenal in 1998, 2002, 2003 and 2005, told a news conference on Wednesday.
“On top of that you want to do well in the cups. The basis is first to do well with the stability of results in the championship, and on top of that get the cups.
“This is an opportunity for us to crown our season and the overall achievement if you look back on the season will look better if we win it. It’s all to do, all is in front of us so we just want to focus on Saturday’s game.”
Having finished the Premier League season with five consecutive victories and Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey back from injury, Arsenal will be buoyant as they prepare to face Steve Bruce’s Hull, but not complacent. (Reuters)