Cup final thoughts: Wenger’s monumental act of defiance
Arsenal 2 Chelsea 1
From Goodplaya at Wembley
There are so many things I could spend a while writing about but really I feel it has to be about Arsene Wenger.
What a monumental act of defiance that was, the conjuring of something that went so emphatically against the grain, that appeared so at odds with the optics. Going into the game, we were, on quite a number of levels, not a club in very good shape. Add to that the sense that when the going gets tough, Arsenal tend to get hammered. Then throw in the quality of the opposition, the fact that they’d have just loved to properly kick us when we’re down and the leaving out of Cech.
And yet. And yet he did it. And in such style.
It was the most magnificent of retorts to so many people, me included. It was two fingers stuck straight in my face and it was absolutely magnificent. Hats off, fair play and all that.
He is a man whose record defies the norms of footballistic scrutiny. I honestly don’t think you can plausibly argue that the league record has been good enough since 2005. We haven’t once mounted a proper league title challenge in 13 years. Forget all the carping about a sense of entitlement, no club of Arsenal’s size and stature would unthinkingly accept that.
And yet, for me it is equally implausible to argue that all those years of Champions League qualification and these three FA cups in four years count for nothing. Winning the FA Cup is amazing. No ifs, no buts, no qualifications. It is, for me, so, so special. It’s not a consolation prize for not winning the league, it is just a wonderful, historic competition that only doesn’t matter to those who don’t get very far in it.
It’s funny how growing older changes us as football fans. I can pinpoint the dates of family occasions in the 1990s simply by cross-referencing them to my encyclopedic memory of Arsenal games at the time and yet nowadays I often can’t remember who we played a month ago. But one great thing I find is that the older I get, the greater the sensation when times are good. The more you realise just how special a moment it is. And so it was yesterday.
There has been a real sense of groundhog day about so much of Arsenal’s recent history. The league campaigns have been pretty similar in many respects. None of them worth more than a sentence or so in any history of the club.
But not yesterday. As we roared the team on, it felt as though we were willing them on to a victory that for so many reasons will warrant far more than a sentence or so in that history book.
Whatever happens over the next few days (and I have genuinely mixed views), yesterday was the day Arsene Wenger reasserted why he is one of the preeminent figures in Arsenal’s 131 year history.
This, on so many levels, was the greatest Arsenal FA Cup final victory I’ve ever seen. A day to truly savour.