Arsenal finally got the ‘monkey off their back’ so to speak by beating Hull City 3-2 to win their first honour in nine years on Saturday and finally this team now knows how it feels to win a trophy together.
The manner in which they won it - coming back from being 2-0 down in the first eight minutes - will arguably stand them in even greater stead than what a routine 3-0 victory would have done.
They’ve been through a lot in terms of hammerings from the top teams and the media, but when a side goes through such adversity and comes out the other side virtually unscathed, it should make the bond closer between the players.
This Gunners’ side has been quietly assembled by Arsene Wenger over the past few years with the odd player such as Bacary Sagna and Tomas Rosicky having been there in the immediate aftermath of the breakup of the mid-2000s team.
The club has been accused of being ‘tight by some,’ but now, with the business and financial side of the club healthy and a group of players with a trophy to their name, they should have the belief and hunger to do it again.
But this time, they must seriously challenge for the big ones the Premier League and the Champions League. With their British core of young players like Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott, Carl Jenkinson, Kieran Gibbs and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, they seem to have a good balance at the moment. Although they still need to add to it, of course, particularly up front.
This cup win could have the same galvanising effect that it had on Manchester United after their 1990 triumph over Crystal Palace. That was a side where the majority of the players had been together for a few seasons, but had failed to deliver on the big stage.
That victory over Palace gave them a taste of success and an idea of what was needed to get over the line in landing a trophy.
The team played regularly together for another two seasons before some of them - such as Danny Wallace and Neil Webb - were edged out of the club, which is only natural. They added to it in the form of Denis Irwin, Peter Schmeichel and youngsters like Lee Sharpe and Ryan Giggs, won a couple of more cups then further additions such as Eric Cantona in 1992 brought them closer to the big one: the league title in 1993. And we know what happened after that.
This is what Arsenal have to do. The game’s changed since then, but from a human perspective, the psychological aspect will bring up similar emotions.
Wenger’s side will have that close bond having gone through the mill and will have learned from that. The amount of ‘selfies’ they pose for together indicates that most of them are likely to be mates off the pitch, which can be important because it means they would likely do anything for each other on the pitch.
Hull may not be one the top-flight’s ‘big boys’, but the cup final was a massive occasion, especially with the pressure of trying to end a nine-year wait for a trophy and it being the type of match that might have seen them capitulate in the past.
But those failures beforehand have obviously made The Gunners stronger and wiser, and although they were calm in their play in overhauling a two-goal deficit, their character and stilted desperation got them through it.
You knew that the main United players of that 90s era were focused on the job whereas Arsenal’s current bunch can easily be accused of not being so (hard to imagine Peter Schmeichel taking a selfie after a massive match like Wojciech Szczesny did against Tottenham Hotspur, even if mobile phones weren’t as advanced in the 90s).
But will Arsenal’s new cup winners and selfie lovers react in a similar vein to that United side of 1990? We’ll see.
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