When Aaron Ramsey stabbed home the winner against Hull City in the FA cup final, Arsenal entered a new chapter in our long and decorated history and one I just can’t help but feel excited about.
Following on from securing fourth place we did the business in the final two games of the season against West Brom and Norwich. It was the ideal way to go into the cup final and with a more or less fully fit squad to pick from, confidence and morale was high.
It was a strange feeling waking up on the day of the Cup Final. On the one hand I was extremely excited about the proposition of winning our first trophy for nine years. Being 22 years old I was only young when we last won the FA cup and it’s fair to say as a young 13-year old you don’t tend to appreciate the happiness that success brings you. However as I grew older, I remembered the defeat to Birmingham in the Cup Final, the multiple Semi final losses and crucial painful losses in title chasing games, the doubt was there and it was a long wait until that 17:00 kick off.
When it finally came the nerves had settled down and being surrounded my many Arsenal fans before kickoff, I had built up confidence and belief that we were just 90 minutes away from the much desired FA cup trophy.
The biggest criticism I have of this team this season is that when we have conceded the first goal, we’ve on too many occasions not recovered from it. Many of the times I don’t think the players have shown the required mental strength or hunger to get ourselves back into the game and consequently, especially in the big matches, we have gone on to suffer heavy defeats.
When we went two nil down to Hull City after six minutes that was the first thing that came into my head. Are we going to crumble like we have previously, let the opportunity pass us by and allow this season to become ultimately a massive disappointment? Or would we stand up like true champions, find a way to get back into the game and fight until the end in the true Arsenal way.
To our credit, we responded remarkably well! Once Santi Cazorla’s magnificent free kick reduced the deficit, we stayed focused defensively, created multiple opportunities from a varied number of attacks and despite not doing it in the 90 minutes, battled on to win the game and lift the FA cup trophy.
It was somewhat fitting that Aaron Ramsey, who at one point in his Arsenal career looked so inferior to the players around him, scored the winner. The faith and belief that Arsene Wenger showed him and the season he has had meant he was the deserved match winner.
The scenes that followed the victory were absolutely glorious. The players understood what it meant to the fans and we celebrated in style. 250,000 people gathered outside the Emirates, which shows firstly how much of a following this club has and secondly how desperate we were for some silverware.
With everyone around the club enjoying a real feel good period, which we haven’t experienced for a while, we go into this summer with lots of positive momentum. The question is how do we build on it?
Earlier last week we found out the expected news that Arsene Wenger has renewed his contract for a further three years. I found the reaction on the whole was slightly more positive then what I had anticipated, which may be down to the renewed hope in light of the cup victory.
The first thing you would have to say is if him signing this contract was being judged on what we had achieved this season then he very much deserves it. Last summer I said I wanted to be closer to the top teams, win a trophy and sign a world-class player.
In terms of getting closer to the bigger teams, I think we did that despite our title challenge somewhat collapsing we were seven points off Man City, five of second place Liverpool and two away from Chelsea. Compare that to being seven points off 5th place Everton and 10 away from 6th place Spurs then it’s clear to see that we’ve made progress.
We won the FA cup and don’t allow anyone to say that was just because we defeated Hull City. On our way to the final we beat three of the top six including Liverpool during the middle of their 13 game league winning streak.
We signed Mesut Ozil, who was arguably seen as the best number ten in world football when he penned the contract on deadline day. Don’t get me wrong the summer did not go completely as planned and still think a world class striker should have been brought but Ozil gives us the platform to build on.
You then have to look at the managers who are available. I was open to change and certainly have entertained the idea in previous thoughts. Whilst there are a few managers that I would have been excited about taking over from Arsene, I don’t think there is a clear standout manager available.
Arsene will be our manager for the next three years and whilst I have previously had my doubts, the major feeling I have right now is one of great excitement.
This is mainly down to a combination of reasons. Guiding the club to victory in the FA cup gives me hope that he’s found his winning spark back, which I think may have been lost in the last few years. Being ruthless and changing things like he did when he brought Podolski off for Sanogo in the cup final and adapting the tactics to the team we are facing is the sort of things I want to see him do more.
I’m excited about the team he’s put together. Players like Ozil, Ramsey, Wilshere, Chamberlain, Walcott to name a few are all relatively young and the prospect of them leading the club out in the future is an exciting one.
Finally there is the notion that Arsene now has a bigger challenge than ever on his hands. He could have walked away from his job with Arsenal with his reputation mostly intact. His early legacy of putting Arsenal back on the map and doing it in such a stylish manner. Guiding the club into a very smooth transitional period by keeping us in the Champions League whilst we moved to the Emirates despite the significant investment that was poured into other teams.
There will be some who can’t accept the lack of silverware that the last few years has brought but on the whole the large majority would have viewed him as the best manager the club has ever seen.
The fact he has signed for three more years puts him under serious pressure. With the calibre of players that we now have at the club supplemented by money that we undoubtedly know he can spend mean big things are expected of him and the team.
If we were to have a similar three years to the last ones we’ve just experienced then that brilliant legacy gets severely tainted and with the additional fan pressure it’s hard to say if he would last. It’s up to Arsene to deliver not just top four finishes but trophies and the fact he thinks he can knowing what the consequences are if he doesn’t gives me a weird feeling of excitement.
However the nature of football means that fans are very fickle and I’m no different. Whilst I’m now happy that Arsene has signed new deal things can change very quickly and that’s why it’s so important he gets it right in the transfer market.
Regardless of your thoughts on Oliver Giroud, based on last season we all agreed that a world class or at the least a recognised very good striker is required. On top of that there were games that we were bullied in and needed some extra protection in the centre of midfield.
Since the campaign has finished we’ve lost Fabianski to Swansea and Bacary Sagna is 95% likely to leave the club.
That means there are four players that need to come in with a striker being the absolute priority. If there is then money left over for a silky winger or a former fan favourite then go out and do it but not at the expense of what we need most!
It will be an interesting couple of months; some of us will get caught up in the transfer madness and will no doubt lose our head over a player we were never close to signing!
I’m confident we can get the right players although we will have to act a lot more aggressively than we did in the last window if we want to get our number one targets. The hard work begins now to ensure we give ourselves the best possible chance in what I believe is truly an exciting time to be an Arsenal fan.