9 years: The making of an Arsenal victory
And finally, it has happened. I knew it was only a matter of time before it did. And it took 9 years to finally happen. But they have done it at last. Arsenal. FA cup champions 2014! And I still need to check my phone everytime to see that it really happened. It all seems so surreal! But I have to admit, I don’t mind that 9 year gap anymore; simply because of the fact that it was that gap which made this victory all the more special. I don’t think the happiness that we as Arsenal fans felt at the final whistle would have been anywhere near it was that night, had Arsenal recently won a trophy.
21st May 2005. Arsenal scraped through a goalless draw against United, where quite frankly, they had been heavily outplayed. But they emerged victorious in a tense penalty shootout, with mid field general Vieira slotting home from the spot to win the FA cup. What followed were scenes of jubilation and happiness. Beating United, their fiercest rivals to win the FA cup is obviously a great feat. But who knew, that what was to follow in the next 9 years, was a barren trophyless run. With a team consisting of Bergkamp, Henry, Vieira,Ljunberg, Pires etc, you can’t reallly blame fans for not expecting anything on those lines.
The following year, Arsenal were bang on with expectations, reaching the UEFA champions league final, and leading 0-1 for a majority of the game with 10 men against Barcelona, and almost doing the unthinkable. But it really was going to be almost impossible.to hold a potent Barca team from scoring, and that too, with 10 men. Barcelona went on to win that game 2-1, but nobody questioned the fighting spirit of that Arsenal team.
It was after that year, when the real test for Arsene Wenger began. Arsenal moved from Highbury to the Emirates, and were debt ridden in doing so. At the same time, Wenger lost the core of the team he had built in the past decade. Henry moved on to Barcelona; the likes of Ljungerg, Bergkamp etc. retired and it was left to him to rebuild the team from scratch, without spending too much, keeping in mind the debt Arsenal were in at that moment of time. Wenger always believed in the exuberance of youth and his philosophy is quite obvious through one of his most famous quotes: “At Arsenal, we don't buy superstars, we make them.”
And therein began the transformation of the club. Arsene probably knew at that time, that it was going to be very hard for Arsenal to make a high end investment in players. He knew what he had to do. He decided to stay on at Arsenal, inspite of the fact that funds were limited, and chances of silverware bleak. He had to re build his team, and clear this debt. And he set out for doing it in the best way he thought possible, something most Arsenal fans had grown wary of in the past 9 years: investing in raw talent. But in the bigger picture, Wenger knew what he was doing, as most of the fans would agree now I guess.
He did have his fair share of problems with this strategy though. Wenger, during his time had worked with players whose loyalty to Arsenal had been unquestionable. “Mr. Arsenal” Tony Adams, “The non-flying Dutchman” Dennis Bergkamp etc were players who never even thought of playing for any other club. And Arsene, solely because of the class of the people he had worked with, expected everyone he brought into the club to have the same quality. As time would go on to tell, he was, for a change, mistaken.
He brought in youngsters, made them what they are today, but they proved to be nothing more than mercenaries, none more so than Robin Van Persie, (with the exception of Ashley Cole perhaps) who, after being supported by Wenger and Arsenal for 8 injury marred seasons, moved to Manchester United after his first full season at Arsenal. Adebayor, Nasri, Clichy, Ashley Cole, Alexandre Song...the list just kept growing, and Wenger kept losing the core of his team year after year.