After nine long and painful years, the drought is finally over. Figures vary between reports but approximately as many as 250,000 Gunners’ supporters lined the streets of North London last weekend to celebrate as the Arsenal team paraded the trophy.
But as the dust settles on Arsenal’s latest achievement however, attention must now turn to the immediate future. It has been ten years since Arsene Wenger last got his hands on the Premier League trophy. Back then, the likes of Thierry Henry and Robert Pires swept all others aside as the “Invincibles” completed the season without a single blemish on their record.
Despite another well-documented collapse in the New Year, Arsenal eventually only finished seven points adrift of the summit in the last campaign. With the overbearing weight of the drought finally lifted, the pieces seem to be in place for this FA Cup triumph to act as a springboard for even greater success.
One only needs to look over the past few years to recognise the impact that success in the competition can have. Back in 2011, Roberto Mancini’s Manchester City landed their first piece of silverware under the ownership of Sheikh Mansour. Although Manchester United finished the season atop of the Premier League once again, the FA Cup triumph and semi final success against the Red Devils brought the Citizens’ out of the shadows of their great rivals. In the three years since, City have been crowned champions twice.
Obviously, other factors come into play and it would be foolish to suggest that an FA Cup triumph will inevitably lead to Premier League success. Mansour’s extravangant spending and flagrant disregard for the rules of Financial Fair Play certainly have had something to do with it.
But on the other hand, it would be difficult to argue that City’s achievement back in 2011 hasn’t played a role in their recent successes. All the pieces were coming in to place and the FA Cup triumph was another hurdle successfully negotiated on the club’s route to challenging for the country’s top prize.
And having spent 128 days at the summit of the Premier League this season, the evidence would suggest that Arsenal themselves may soon be able to call the 2013/14 campaign as their own springboard to success.
Perhaps most importantly since their victory, Wenger has committed his future to the club. As United have proven this season, the transition after a managerial dynasty is not a smooth process. The long-serving Frenchman and Arsenal have become irrevocably intertwined through a marriage of footballing principles and philosophies. And if there is one man that can guide this current generation to bigger and better things, it is indeed Wenger.
Despite finishing fourth once again, this season has produced a number of positives which should surely give the Gunners’ fans a cause for optimism. In Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker, Arsenal possess one of the meanest central defensive pairings in the division. Mesut Ozil may have had his up’s and down’s in his debut campaign at the Emirates, but the German international will surely benefit from his testing introduction to life in the Premier League. And in Aaron Ramsey, Arsenal possess one of the most improved and dynamic midfielders in the country.
In an interview before the final, former Gunners’ favourite Ray Parlour stated that the club would challenge for the title next season if they defeated Hull at Wembley. It may be a sporting cliche but success does inevitably breed further success. Exciting prospects such as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey and Jack Wilshere will be all the better for tasting victory in the showpiece final.
Before anyone starts getting ahead of themselves, there is obviously work that needs to be done. Having fallen down in February and March on so many occasions now, Wenger needs to get to the bottom of this psychological or physical impediment. Unfortunately for the Gunners’, the medals that they crave are handed out in May and no earlier.
With a rumoured £100 million warchest, the need to spend is greater than ever. With so much already in place, now is the time for Wenger to go big in the transfer market. With a new striker, a physical defensive midfielder and a potential replacement for Bacary Sagna, Arsenal wouldn’t look too far away from being the finished article.
Aside from the outcome of England in a penalty shoot-out, nothing can ever be confidently predicted in football. But following their FA Cup triumph, all of the signs from this season point to this being a defining moment for Arsenal. A catalyst for even further success.