Arsene Wenger's Cup runneth over with bubbly after long drought

Arsenal manager gets a soaking - then turns his thoughts to a summer of team strengthening

Arsène Wenger gave his final round of interviews on Saturday dressed in the last clean tracksuit the kitman had left and socks matched with slip-on rubber sandals. He had been doused with champagne on the pitch by Lukas Podolski and will get a waft of the bubbly every time he takes that club suit off the hanger; the aroma otherwise known as the sweet smell of success.

It has been a long time coming for Arsenal, who have a trophy to put in front of their team group photograph next August for the first time in nine summers. Afterwards, in the corridors off the Wembley tunnel some famous fans and the occasional ex-player basked in a little of the success. Mo Farah interrupted Mikel Arteta’s interview with Spanish television to embrace him. The last time Arsenal won a trophy, Farah was not even the European Under-23 5,000 metres champion.

Stan Kroenke was there too, unwilling to elaborate on his thoughts on the first trophy since he took over the club, but no doubt relieved, like the rest of the Arsenal board, that the new contract with Wenger can be signed without a backdrop of discontent.

One year ago, had this been the scenario offered, Ivan Gazidis, the chief executive, Kroenke and Wenger would happily have taken it. A trophy in the cabinet for the first time since 2005, Champions League qualification a relative breeze (compared to the 2012-13 season) and no major players pressing to leave the club. It is only that they led the Premier League for so long that gives cause for regret.

There will still be many among the club’s support who will regard a three-year deal for Wenger with trepidation. The mood at the club remains on a knife-edge. Never more so than on Saturday when, at two goals down in the first eight minutes, there was palpable anger and frustration among the Arsenal support at Wembley. By the end of the game, #InArseneWeTrust was one of the United Kingdom’s leading trending topics on Twitter.

That schizophrenic attitude towards their manager is never likely to go away. When his team win, as they did against Hull City, coming from two goals behind and snatching it in the 19th minute of extra time, he looks like he has all the answers, and all is well with the world. When they lose, all the worst aspects of his personality – stubbornness, an unwillingness to adapt – seem to be amplified once again.

As for the future, the first impression was not that Wenger is falling over himself to reinforce the squad for a fresh assault on the Premier League title next year. “First, we have to wait for [the out-of-contract] Bacary Sagna – what will he will do?” he said later. “And then there is Lukasz Fabianski [also out of contract]. After, we have to bring in two or three players to strengthen the squad, that is for sure. Unfortunately, everywhere we go, there are many teams trying to buy in the market at the moment.”

He deserves to enjoy his triumph first. Arsenal paraded the FA Cup around the streets of Islington, north London, yesterday and before Wenger embarks for Brazil next month, to work as a pundit for French television at the World Cup finals, he will sign his new contract. The length of it, three years, shows that the club regard him as the man to carry them forward in the long term.

It must have been reassuring for Arsenal fans to see Wenger in the break before extra time started in the middle of his players, intensively briefing the players with his tactical message by moving around water bottles on the turf. He later explained his quandary over substitutions, given that Santi Cazorla, who came off before the second period of extra time, is a good penalty-taker. He also took a risk in leaving on Kieran Gibbs, who had injured a hamstring.

As for ending the nine-year streak without a trophy, he conceded that it was a considerable relief. “Look, it will force you first to be a bit more creative [about your questions] in the press conferences but I trust you will be,” he said. “I don’t worry too much about it. But basically, the whole club and the fans were under that kind of pressure, not having won for years. This will help to get that off our shoulders a little bit and focus on getting stronger.”

How much stronger? It is curious that nine months on from the £42m signing of Mesut Özil that seemed to signify a change of direction within the club, it was not the German who won the final for Arsenal. If anything he was one of their quietest players, doing little to affect the game. The big players were Cazorla and the match-winning goalscorer Aaron Ramsey, with the added impetus of late substitutes Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky.

Olivier Giroud put in another fine performance, right up to the maximum of his abilities, setting up Ramsey’s goal and striking the post himself with a header. But Giroud is not the answer to Arsenal’s centre-forward question; he is the answer when a putative star centre-forward is injured. Giroud would be an excellent understudy to a top-level striker, but can Arsenal find that man this summer?

A ball-winning midfielder would not go amiss either. Abou Diaby was at Wembley, but in the stands as usual. They will need to look at right-back too if Sagna does leave. Still, by the standards of recent years, it has been a good season for Arsenal, especially given the meltdown at Manchester United that has left them as last men standing from among the English veterans of Champions League qualification.

Wenger said: “I believe the quality of a club is the consistency and then the special players make you win the trophies. The quality of the consistency is important for the club and on that front we have been better than everybody else. There are only two clubs in Europe who have 17 years consecutively qualified for the Champions League and that consistency demands special values inside the club.”

He would take Champions League qualification over the FA Cup every day of course, although for once he did not have to. As for the champagne, why was Podolski so determined to soak his manager? “He needed it,” the German said. “After nine years, he needs a little drink.”

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition