Arsenal have had a fair share of near misses during this enduring trophy-drought of theirs.
17th May 2006
Arsenal lined up against Barcelona bidding to win their first Champions League trophy in their history. Despite suffering an early setback when goalkeeper Jens Lehmann was sent off, the Gunners raced into a shock lead before half time and held onto their lead valiantly until Barcelona finally broke them down in the final 14 minutes and won 2-1.
23rd February 2008
Arsenal, flying high five points clear at the top of the table with twelve games to go, saw their season crumble at the hands of Birmingham. New signing Eduardo, settling into English football well and providing excellent relief for Robin van Persie and Emmanuel Adebayor, had his leg broken after a reckless challenge by Martin Taylor.
The Gunners came together and led ten-man Birmingham 2-1 when in the dying minutes a foolish mistake by Gael Clichy saw them concede a penalty and drop two valuable points. There followed a miserable run where the Gunners only managed eight points in seven games and, following a poor collapse against Liverpool in the Champions League quarter-final, the season was as good as over and no silverware was won.
27 February 2011
Although Arsenal's title challenge had started to falter somewhat - Wenger's men were four points behind leaders Manchester United - a chance to end their then six year trophy drought came in a supposedly easy Carling Cup Final against relegation-threatened Birmingham City.
Although in their 1-0 win over Stoke key players Theo Walcott and Cesc Fabregas picked up injuries, few would've expected what ensued. Birmingham had taken the lead before a Robin van Persie equaliser, in the process of which the Dutchman was added to Arsenal's growing injury list.
But Laurent Koscielny and Wojciech Szczesny made a comic error in the dying minutes to give Obafemi Martins an open goal as Arsenal saw their cup dream fade away in painful circumstances. Arsenal were still fighting on all other fronts but following an exits to Barcelona and Manchester United in the Champions League and FA Cup, went on a disastrous run in the Premier League and finished fourth.
There's a pattern forming here, isn't there? These are three key moments in Arsenal's nine year trophy drought where glory has presented itself and some factor, be it lack of squad depth or sheer bad luck, has prevented Arsenal from taking their chance. It is worth mentioning that during and before this drought there have been countless other chances where Arsenal have blundered.
Including those three, had it been for a certain decision by any certain party and Arsenal's fortunes had gone the other way Wenger could easily have had another eight or nine trophies to add to his collection since 2005, perhaps more. It seems that Arsenal have been the ultimate "could've should've would've" team in the last decade; the team of regrets. Now comes the time for Arsenal to put those regrets behind them.
Although a string of poor results in February has caused Arsenal's grasp on the Premier League title to loosen, there is still a chance that Arsenal can win the league. It would take a run reminiscent of the end of last season and other title-winning runs in Wenger's past, but should things go Arsenal's way and the team be able to pick up five more points than Manchester City and more than Liverpool and Chelsea, they will win their first league title in ten years. It is a very tough ask, but with so many chances not taken in the past Wenger should be desperate to put those demons to bed now.
Then comes the FA Cup. Arsenal need to be better than Wigan and Hull or Sheffield United to win that trophy. Although Wigan have proved in the past that they can beat anybody, Arsenal must ignore those previous victories and prove that they are better than a team in the league below them. Then in the final they must play in the same vein.
Wenger does not have much time left at Arsenal in the grand scheme of things. He has lost nine trophy-winning years due to re-building Arsenal after their financial setback from the construction of a new stadium, a task that has been even harder with "financial doping" as he has called it from rival teams.
Many clubs who build new stadiums are relegated or are unable to compete with any of their rivals, so getting Arsenal into the Champions League every season is an incredible achievement. However, now that Arsenal's financial muscle is returning there is no excuse for them not to start winning again.
Wenger should do everything in his power to avoid having players next season looking at a gap on the Emirates Stadium upper tier banner next to the 2005 FA Cup.
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