I started this column recently because Arsenal have been utter rubbish this season. Granted, a fifth-place finish for many clubs is a dream but for Arsenal, what they’ve failed to achieve this season has been a condemnation of the club’s culture, management, and many of the players. We’ve all suffered through being bounced from the Champions League (again), not even challenging for the league this calendar year (again), questioning whether Wenger knew any new tactics (again but then put this on hiatus), and suffered the greatest indignity of all: finishing below Spurs. Even typing that last part puts a sour taste in my mouth.
Yet we have an opportunity that, this season, 17 other teams have not had, and that is to end the season hoisting a trophy. This weekend, we face a club that has already done this and is undoubtedly the mentally strongest team in the league. However, we are not playing them over eight months or even two legs. We are facing Chelsea just once, on a neutral pitch, at the end of the season, with 90 minutes (plus extra time and stoppages if needed) on the clock. It was just this past fall that we humbled Chelsea and their new manager and, while they did the same to us more recently, we’ve adjusted as well with our new 3-4-3.
Set aside for a moment the reasons we probably won’t win and focus on what if we did. What would it mean? Yes, the club would still be in crisis and we all would need a good map to find some of the places we would be playing next season in the Europa League, but we would be ending the season with a victory that meant something. Arsenal would add another FA Cup trophy to a record amount, pulling further away from Manchester United. We would have won the Cup in three of the last four years. Chelsea did that in 2007, 2009, and 2010, but before that, the last club to pull off that feat was Arsenal (2002, 2003, 2005). This is our best competition and a way to show the football world that yes, we are still relevant.
Will an FA Cup sway some of the players looking to exit that they should stay? Probably not but it would be a just reward for those like Alexis, Ozil, and Ospina that have contributed much to the club. And then there’s Wenger, who looks to be staying longer but may not. Imagine all of them hoisting a trophy in front of raucous Arsenal fans filling Wembley. I remember how I felt when Arsenal barely defeated Hull City to break their trophy-less streak three years ago and how excited/relieved/worn out I was after watching the match. This match would not bring the same psychological satisfaction, but it would feel like a good way to end this cluster of a season.
Set aside your logic for a day and dream. Dream like a kid who loves Arsenal and doesn’t know about the heartbreak and politics this current club tends to bring. Dream about where you’ll be when they raise the cup and how you’ll celebrate with your mates. Stop reading the rumours and just be a fan for one day. Because this weekend could be quite the stressor for any true Arsenal fan.