While he was arguably as comfortable as a cat midway through a bath, the sight of Arsene Wenger, drenched in champagne, being thrown in the air by the jubilant Arsenal players has comfortably obliterated nine years of frustration for the millions of Gunners fans around the world, and secured the Frenchman’s return as the apple of their eye after his enduring legacy looked to be under serious threat.
Wenger has guided the club back to much needed glory, ending their seemingly endless trophy drought in the most dramatic of fashions against a stubborn Hull City side at Wembley, in what was one of the most watchable finals in recent memory.
Aaron Ramsey’s brilliantly taken extra-time winner deservedly won the match, but it was certainly not plain sailing for much of the game for Arsenal, with Hull threatening a monumental upset with two quick-fire goals in the first half.
Arsenal fans could be forgiven for thinking their world was caving in after James Chester and then Curtis Davies putting the Tigers two goals up after just eight minutes. It was a stunning opening, and one that took the majority of the country off guard. But for the Arsenal fans, it was all oddly predictable.
Arsene Wenger’s side do like to give themselves a good handicap to make things interesting! Playing the entire season with only Olivier Giroud as a main striker, pressing the suicide button in their recent meetups with the Premier League big four, and here, starting at such a leisurely pace in the club’s most important match in recent history, with Hull taking full advantage.
While two set-pieces but Arsenal on the back-foot, a sumptuous Santi Cazorla free-kick brought the Gunners back into the match. The Spaniard’s effort, coming at a time when Arsenal were desperate for inspiration, was as elegant a free-kick as you are likely to see, and gave his side that pivotal foothold in the final, which had seemed to be slipping away from them.
Quality of football has always been one of Wenger’s key selling points during his eighteen years in North London, and Cazorla’s effort was a goal to delight even the most gifted of former Arsenal wizards. It was that little Arsenal spark; something out of nothing.
Laurent Koscielny completed the comeback with less than 20 minutes remaining, throwing himself in harms way to tuck in a knockdown. Arsenal fans will tell you that during recent plight, the Frenchman invariably is the man to pull them out of trouble. And so it was today, with the brave defender caught in an Alan McGregor bear-trap as he slid in the equaliser, finally atoning for his error in the now infamous 2011 League Cup Final.
But with the game finely balanced at 2-2, the final beckoned for a hero, a call that Aaron Ramsey heard and acted upon in barnstorming fashion.
The 23-year-old had admittedly been rather anonymous for the initial 90, with his side struggling to gain any sort of momentum against the plucky Hull backline. But with the idea of penalties sending shivers down the spines of the tortured Arsenal fans, the midfielder came up with the goods, and further highlight his growing presence in the game.
The Welsh captain was an early candidate for Premier League player of the season, before a calf injury saw him miss a large chunk of the campaign. His return in the last few weeks has seen a marked upturn in fortune for the Gunners, with a Van Bastan-esque goal against Norwich last weekend a true example of his boundless talent.
Again, Ramsey was the hero this afternoon, coming to the fore in a brilliant half-an-hour of extra-time, with Arsenal in dire need of that exceptional spark to see them finally see off their opponents.
His goal was a moment of brilliance, this time from open play, and this time involving the much maligned Olivier Giroud, who despite ploughing a lone furrow up top for practically the entire season, has fallen short of fans’ estimations.
But the Frenchman’s cute back-heel to set up the winning goal was superb, much like the finish, with Ramsey firmly steering the ball into the Hull net with aplomb.
It was a goal worthy of winning any final, and one that Gunners fans will remember for years to come, and when the full time whistle blew only eight minutes later, joy that has not been seen by those in Arsenal colours for many moons erupted, with fans and players starting a party that will run on for the entirety of the weekend.
Looking back on the season, fourth place and the FA Cup must be seen as a decent accomplishment, with the club back in and amongst the silverware, and competing in the Champions League once again.
But while the season can be deemed a success, the journey surely begins here for Arsene Wenger and his men, with Arsenal surely a different quantity now the nine-year curse has finally been lifted, and the potential of silverware finally made a reality.
Belief, I’m sure Arsene Wenger would say, is the real prize he hopes this trophy will bring his squad.
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