When Aston Villa ran out 3-1 victors at the Emirates Stadium, in Arsenal’s very first match of the season, the critics came out in full force, predicting a season of doom and gloom, for the Arsenal faithful. Following this depressing defeat, was a clinical 3-1 demolition of Fulham, followed by an unconvincing but hugely significant, 1-0 win at home over fierce North London rivals, Tottenham Hotspur.
But with the transfer window, coming to a close, all that Arsenal and Arsene Wenger had managed to sign was another “kid”, Yaya Sanogo, and ex-Arsenal player, Mathieu Flamini, both on free transfers. It was the proverbial “Light at the end of the tunnel, but that of an oncoming train” moment, in Arsenal’s patchy start to the season.
But all that changed, when Arsenal and Wenger managed to pull out a rabbit out of the hat, in the form of Mesut Ozil, in what had to be one of the most expensive magic tricks, ever. Costing over 42 million pounds, Wenger, managed to pulverize the club’s record transfer fee, into smithereens, while his detractors who accused him, of unnecessary frugality, were left silenced.
This was a statement of intent from Arsenal and Wenger, that Arsenal had the money to make top signings, if necessary, and put them back firmly, as title contenders.
Arsenal’s title bid, started off, in a promising fashion, after Ozil’s arrival, as it provided a massive lift to the club and its players. Ozil himself, shined through in the first few matches, setting up assists, scoring goals, and making fans yearn for more. That was not to be the case as the season progressed. Key players including Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and others were forced out with injuries.
Ozil himself suffered an injury, and Arsenal were left to rue these injuries, as the title bid collapsed, amidst questionable tactics employed by Wenger himself, against top opposition away from home, namely Liverpool, Chelsea, Man City and Everton.
In a nightmarish schedule, during which Arsenal faced all or most of their title rivals game after game, and were drawn against the defending European champions Bayern Munich in the Champions League, Arsenal’s title bid ran out of steam. The only respite during this schedule was the FA Cup.
This is not to say that Arsenal had an easy ride to the final. In fact, they had one of the toughest draws, as they had to defeat the likes of Liverpool, Everton, Spurs and defending champions Wigan Athletic (conquerors of Man City), on the road to Wembley.
Arsenal’s chance of redemption, for all these years without silverware, has arrived. This Saturday night, a relieved and rejuvenated Arsenal side, after capturing that crucial 4th place in the league, will face potential party poopers Hull City in the FA Cup Final. This is the time to banish the ghosts of the League Cup loss to Birmingham. This is the time to silence critics who have panned Arsenal, for their lack of silverware over the years.
For Arsenal and Arsene Wenger, this is a true test of their capabilities. Jose Mourinho’s uncalled for “specialist in failure” attack on Arsene must have definitely riled him, and should motivate him even more, to get his hands on this coveted trophy. This being the 2nd consecutive season that “The Special One” failed to win any silverware, Arsenal winning the FA Cup, should be sufficient to answer his venomous criticism.
This Saturday night, there might and hopefully will be “light at the end of the tunnel”, without any oncoming trains to wreck the party.
C’mon you Gunners! Go, win it!Published 16 May 2014, 08:41 IST