Friday 24 November 2017

Sweet relief for Wenger as Arsenal end trophy drought with FA Cup win

The debate about Arsene Wenger's future at Arsenal looks set to be postponed for another day after yesterday's FA Cup final victory. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire
The debate about Arsene Wenger's future at Arsenal looks set to be postponed for another day after yesterday's FA Cup final victory. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire

Dion Fanning

As Arsene Wenger danced clumsily with his Arsenal players on the Wembley pitch last night, it would have been tempting to put his uncertainty down to the fact that his side had forgotten what victory felt like.

Wenger has always amused his players with his awkwardness so this was nothing but the exuberance of a man who has suffered more than anyone during Arsenal's long barren spell going back to 2005.

The debate about Wenger's future looks certain to be postponed for another day, probably another year, after he claimed the FA Cup for the fifth time in a match that contained all the modern Arsenal's strengths and weaknesses and was won by the outstanding Aaron Ramsey.

Wenger was applauded into the press conference last night and the expectation is that he will sign his new contract. "That normally should happen," he said which sounded like a man who may yet decide to retire but he then added: "We are in very normal circumstances now."

For a while it had seemed pretty abnormal. "Today was more important than all the others," Wenger said, but after ten minutes it looked like the long wait would be nothing compared to the agony of losing a game which Wenger felt "everybody thinks you have won before it started".

Once it started, few people thought that. Hull took a swift two-goal lead and they toiled endlessly to make Arsenal's Cup final victory seem like less of an inevitability. The game had turned in Arsenal's favour long before Ramsey's extra-time goal but it had never seemed certain.

The contrast between the two sides could be seen on the touchline. Steve Bruce, in his crumpled suit, looked like a father of a bride who would still be dancing at dawn while Wenger stood alongside him, elegant and severe as if he was harbouring misgivings about his son marrying into this exuberant family.

Alongside each other they looked like they were awkwardly trying to get through the day. As Arsenal got back into it, Wenger was entitled to feel that he was going to be rewarded. "It was an important moment in the life of this team. To lose today would have been a major setback.

The most optimistic of Arsenal fans will claim that Ramsey's injury denied Arsenal a title challenge but there were plenty of other reasons.

Wenger may use this victory as an opportunity to bring in the players he should have signed last summer but last night, as the Arsenal players tossed their manager into the air in celebration, that didn't matter.

Last night all that mattered was that a great football manager had claimed the FA Cup. Arsenal had spent years claiming victories which weren't prizes at all. They had waited a long time but Wenger, the great rationalist, was even able to find some joy in that. "The happiness is linked sometimes with the suffering." Last night Arsene Wenger finally replaced one with the other

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