The 2016-2017 footballing season will go down as the worst season for Arsenal in the last 2 decades. The fan hostility off the pitch and the performances on the pitch, almost everything this season had a gloomy shade to it. The only respite for the club was winning the FA Cup. Arsenal were crowned champions of the FA Cup for a record 13th time after outclassing fierce rivals Chelsea 2-1 in what proved to be the one of the most hotly contested FA Cup finals in the recent years. A controversial Alexis Sanchez and a trademark Aaron Ramsey goal on either sides of a Diego Costa goal was enough to give them the much coveted trophy.
The FA Cup win will be a welcome boost to the team in an otherwise dull season. It will also serve as a platform for the team to improve their performance and strive for glory in the upcoming season. However, is that not what all we gooners hope for every single year?
Arsenal’s love affair with FA Cup
The performance of the team in the final will be cherished by the supporters for years to come. Very rarely in recent years have the Gunners turned up so well in such a clutch game. They outplayed Chelsea in all departments. More importantly the win served as a reminder to everyone that Arsenal are still a top team and can beat anybody “on their day.”
Poor performances, lack of desire and spine, doubts over the future of Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, anti-Wenger chants and toxic atmosphere created a shadow of gloom and despair over the club. The fan hostility had reached such an extent that even Arsene Wenger lamented about the criticism he received. He termed it as a disgrace and something he would never forget in his entire lifetime. Wenger has the right to assert that such a career spanning 20 years should not be brought down to just one game (well it is not just one game).
Had the gunners lost, even the fiercest of his supporters would have waved goodbye after a disastrous season which ended in the club failing to qualify for the UEFA Champions League for the first time in 2 decades of Wenger era. Instead the win and the confident performance re-instilled belief that Wenger can come up with tactical game plans to compete with the very best and offer an answer to those who believe he is the man who changed the face of English football but is afraid of changing himself. The manner in which the win was achieved was that of a trademark Wenger style. The attacking brilliance, the aggression , the passion all were glimpses into the legendary “Invincibles” team of Wenger of the previous decade.
Wenger’s unorthodox move
More importantly the switch from 4-2-3-1 to 3-4-3/3-4-2-1 saved the gunners season. It also indicated that Wenger still has the tactical guile in him to change tactics that suit the team the best. Ramsey, Xhaka and Ozil, in particular, have flourished in this tactical system. The presence of three centre-backs and wing-backs have given freedom to Xhaka and Ramsey to dictate the game. Playing Ozil in the half space on the right hand side has given him the freedom for him to weave his magic and he has looked devastating at times.
The news of Wenger extending his contract has put the onus on him to deliver trophies on a consistent basis yet again. The Gunners arguably have one of the best squads but have struggled to find the rhythm. The appointment is more of an evolution and not a revolution. There was no succession plan for Wenger and there is no contingency put in place to deal with the departure of a man who enjoys so much power at Arsenal (so much so that even the position of a structural pillar in the dressing room needs to be approved from him). The appointment of a sporting director is a must to ease the burden on Wenger. However, the question is will Wenger ease his own burden?
The FA Cup win proved that Wenger still has the magic in him. The next two years will be a stern test for the team and more importantly for the man who has made millions of fans around the world with his beautiful game. With Sanchez and Ozil staying (hopefully) and a couple of new additions to the squad, the next two years will hopefully give a perfect farewell to “Le Professeur.”
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