By Tony Attwood
So we have been in 21 finals, one more than Manchester United, seven more than Chelsea and 12 more than Tottenham.
We have won the FA Cup 14 times, two more than Manchester United, six more than Chelsea, six more than Tottenham
In a season in which we had a manager who lasted 18 months, a temporary manager, and then a new manager, that is quite extraordinary, and it most certainly gives me more hope for the future than I have been feeling for some time. Not least because it makes Arteta’s job safe. I was afraid that a poor display in the final, and worse a heavy defeat by Chelsea, would bring out the placard-waving AFTV gangs demanding another managerial change and huge amounts of expenditure on players, neither of which I felt would have helped us.
Now both seem utterly unlikely, and the owners can feel a little more pleased in that we are back in Europe, another season in the Europa.
And yes I have not forgotten I have been saying that I thought a season out of the Europa would mean a chance to take stock and rebuild, exactly as Liverpool did prior to re-entering the Champions League, and then eventually winning the Premier League.
But there are positives apart from the joy of winning. For beyond everything else it gives confidence to the wonderful collection of young players who are coming through and it should make it easier to hold onto them. Plus the one big benefit the Europa gives is a chance for the youngsters to get more games without disrupting the squad that is put out for the League matches.
Of course there is the usual loads of codswallop on Twatter etc, suggesting that Arsenal fans will think they are back at the top and everything is all right. I can’t think that many fans will feel that we are back on a level with Liverpool! But it does give us a bit of extra income and a chance for the young players to get themselves into some extra games, and to feel that they are in a club that is going forwards rather than chopping and changing at every moment. And we still have the record of the longest run of seasons in Europe for a UK club (second in Europe only to Real Mad).
And there is the history and heritage of the club to consider – something that is way beyond the understanding of the card wavers, and those who just demand the expenditure expenditure expenditure. We have just won the last seven cup finals that we have competed in. No club has ever done that before.
It isn’t the same as winning the League, it isn’t the same as winning a European trophy, but it is still worth winning because we entered for it. And a look at the bench will resonate with many youngsters who are at Arsenal and who have not yet made it into the first team squad, and those who are looking at Arsenal from without.
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And think what it will mean to Martinelli. He will be looking at this and be realising that this is what Arsenal do. Even in the dark times a slipping right down the league to the lowest position in decades, we can still win the FA Cup, the oldest football competition in the world. So when Real Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester City come tempting Martinelli and Saka with their mega wage packets and promises of BIG things, he’ll know, Arsenal are on the way back.
This is about showing John-Jules, Nketiah, Balogun, Nelson, Martinelli, Smith Rowe, Saka, Willock, Smith, Medley, Bola, Macey and some whom I am sure I have forgotten that even in times of adversity the club can dig in and win a trophy. Now they can be preparing themselves to play Europa League and League Cup games, with some time in the Premier League and FA Cup too if the situation works out that way.
Meanwhile it was fun to hear the Chelsea fans moaning on the radio about the referee, as I drove home. Really, to be moaning about one referee in one match shows how easy they get it. I am not agreeing that Chelsea had a hard time of it from the ref, but if they did, that was one match. They ought to imagine what it is like to have such a situation week after week after week.
And then if they are still annoyed, they should try doing what that fantastic four-man team did for Untold, and analyse every Premier League game for 16 match rounds in a row, and put the whole thing up with video evidence. If they need a guide on how to do it, we still have our 160 game review on line. And with a spot of luck we might have something new to show them next season too. Just keep reading Untold.
So I’d say that to every club, if you are annoyed about refereeing, don’t moan about one match. Do what we do: proper analyses. Back up your complaints with analyses of match after match after match. Stop whinging, do the research.
Now it is time for me to calm down a little, to thank my friends for putting up with me for the game (all very socially distanced) and to prepare the next round of revelations about Fifa. They haven’t appeared in the British media yet, but as ever, once we have explained to them exactly how it is all going, they’ll be in there with their “special reports” and their “exclusives”. Give them about a month.
Meanwhile, seven FA cup finals in 20 years, six of them won. No club has done that before.
* Except biggest score.