To HULL and back
By Proud Kev
So tonight we are on the trail of our third FA Cup on the spin. A remarkable achievement, despite what those who seem to object to Arsenal winning games make out.
The FA CUP win against Hull City in 2013/2014 broke the long spell without a trophy, a period counted down daily by the media and those who wanted Wenger’s scalp. The countdown clock conveniently made no allowance for the period of austerity when the club started on its journey to build long term competitiveness. This was the all too familiar countdown clock with a selective memory, programmed to ignore the inconvenient truths. Unable to display the 23 years Liverpool have been waiting for a Premier League Trophy and the even longer 55 years the small club in North London have been waiting patiently.
The countdown clock Arsenal fans were subjected to every time another game ticked by created untold pressure on everyone at the club and it took real bottle to progress through each rounds, against strong opposition. Spurs, Everton and Liverpool were disposed of without the need for replays and a two goal deficit in the final showed the character the players had. Breaking the spell seemed to upset some people, so we were reminded Portsmouth won the FA Cup and we had beaten Liverpool, Spurs and Everton at home.
The following season we proved it was no fluke. Rounding off a win at Old Trafford, despite predictions we would finally lose, we lifted the second major trophy in two years.
Since that FA Cup Final win against Hull the previous season, Arsenal have been consistent. Hull was the start of our return to trophy ways and that win may have lifted a burden from the club.
Looking at the combined league table, after we lifted the FA Cup in 2013/14 to the current league table, it shows an impressive level of consistency. Consistency that may owe much to the lifting of the burden, a burden the media and their friends had continued to remind us of at every given opportunity:
Premier League Table 2014/2016 combined (Current)
So since we broke the back of the trophy-less period, we have proven to be consistent performers. We are a far better team than the pundits and the media would have you believe.
Despite the FA Cup win at the end of last season that made it two in a row, there are those who continue to heap unfair criticism on the club and the manager. A number of long term injuries to key players conveniently ignored, along with some recent misfortunes that have cost us points. Has any team ever played under such a stream of constant pressure?
The media have had their knives out for over ten years. We have seen pundits and ex-players join the dissenting voices and even a brave, gutsy performance against Spurs this weekend was treated by some as a five nil defeat. It’s all part of the agenda.
However, after ex Spurs Manager David Pleat turned on the ex-players and pundits criticising Wenger on BBC 5 Live at the Weekend, Steve Bruce decided he too would defend our Manager from the media witch hunt.
Prior to the game tonight, Hull City Manager Steve Bruce was asked about Arsene Wengers position by the smug, trouble makers in the media. Now Steve Bruce is a man that has won most honours in the game. He has gained considerable respect along the way and is one of the few ex-players that decided to put his money where his mouth was. His opinions are always well founded and articulate. When asked about Arsene Wengers position he jumped to Arsene’s defence. He told the hacks:
“How anybody can criticise him is beyond me with what he’s achieved and what he’s done. From inside the game you’re not going to hear people criticising him because when you’re in management as long as he’s been and what he’s achieved, who is anyone to criticise him?”
Bruce went on: “I find it appalling that they can. He’s helped build a fantastic club, he’s helped finance it by selling players, he’s never been able to really compete at the top level like others at a top club have but he’s kept them in the top four for 17 or 18 years. It’s a blame culture now. Managers get the sack after 12 weeks.”
This comment was largely ignored because it was inconvenient, so the hacks reminded Bruce that Arsenal had not won the Premier League since 2004.
Bruce wasn’t having none of it. He reiterated the un-thinkable. He claimed the landscape had altered since the takeovers at Chelsea and Manchester City by two billionaire benefactors and pointed out that for some period Arsenal was a selling club.
How could he say this, didn’t he know this kind of comment was off limits?
Bruce said: “It’s very difficult to win a title. Manchester United went 20 odd years before they won 10 of them. With the emergence of Chelsea and Manchester City over the last decade then it is very, very difficult – it doesn’t just come as easy as it used to”.
He went on: “So for me he (Wenger) would only get one thing and that is respect. He has to be great to manage a club like Arsenal for 20-odd years. It’s a blame culture now. Managers get the sack after 12 weeks. So somebody who has managed Arsenal for 20-odd years, you have to give them the greatest respect because he keeps responding. I don’t know why we’re questioning him. He has been one of the great managers that this country has ever seen.”
Impressive support from Steve Bruce, who deserves huge respect for the honourable way he conducts himself. A man who’s team earned a deserved point at the Emirates and who will give us a very tough game tonight.
What winning tonight could mean
Win tonight and we go on to meet Watford in the next round and the dream of a third FA Cup in succession remains alive. Don’t listen to those who try to discredit this achievement, they have an agenda. Make no mistake winning two FA Cups on the spin is a remarkable achievement. Just getting close to winning three would be special but to actually achieve it would be one for the record books.
Now is the time to be proud of this football club and to remind the hacks and our rivals that Arsenal Football Club is not going away. We know they don’t like us but what do they know? Steve Bruce’s veiled attack on those who don’t work inside the game should be lost on nobody.
Beating Hull will be treated with a pinch of salt by those who have an agenda to produce content for but it could be a big result with a very big meaning. A result that allows us to rebuild our confidence after recent results and start a run of wins that we all know this team is capable of doing.
Arsenal have been to Hull and back.
This could be the start of our return to form and the moment we look back to as the turning point of our season.
Dare we think the unthinkable? Another record for our club under Wenger and a possible League and Cup double could be on the cards.
The FA Cup anniversaries today (index to 4600 anniversaries across the years is here)
- 8 March 1952: Luton 2 Arsenal 3. FA Cup round 6. Arsenal had scored 15 goals in four matches thus far on the road to Wembley. Cox 2, and Milton got the goals.
- 8 March 1972: Ajax 2 Arsenal 1. European Cup 3rd round 1st leg. It came after two battles with Derby in the cup (both drawn) and a defeat in the league to Manchester City.
- 8 March 1975: Arsenal 0 West Ham 2. FA Cup 6th round. This was the fourth consecutive defeat in league and cup.
- 8 March 1980: Watford 1 Arsenal 2 FA Cup 6th round, on the way to the last cup final for 19 years. Stapleton got both goals.
- 8 March 1998: Arsenal 1 WHU 1. FA Cup 6th in the Second Double Season. Bergkamp scored with a penalty. The second double: part 1, part 2, part 3.
- 8 March 2003: Arsenal 2 Chelsea 2. FA Cup 6th round. Jeffers and Henry scored.
- 8 March 2006: Daily Mirror ran the headline, “Nil nil to the Arsenal” after the draw with Real Madrid in the Champions League.
- 8 March 2011: Barcelona 3 Arsenal 1. Champions League round of 16.
- 8 March 2014: Arsenal 4 Everton 1. FA Cup quarter finals – en route to Wembley. Ozil, Flamini, Giroud and Arteta scored