Monday, 1 June 2015

Cech, Schneiderlin and Benzema would give Arsenal every chance of beating Chelsea to the Premier League title

Now for the title: Arsenal won a second successive
Premier League title at Wembley on Saturday
Arsene Wenger rewrote the history books at Wembley but this was not the entry he had in mind when signing a new contract last summer.

Arsenal can be proud of becoming the most successful team in FA Cup history after comprehensively outclassing Aston Villa, while Wenger’s record-equalling sixth victory is a reminder of his longevity — a throwback to the halcyon days of the late nineties and early noughties.

Back then, the Gunners routinely dominated big matches like this. The intervening period saw a combination of financial constraint, wretched luck with injuries (or poor player management depending on your point of view) and the emergence of newly-moneyed clubs Chelsea and Manchester City.

Wenger had built his reputation on developing young players and unearthing gems from the unexplored extremities of the transfer market.

As their rivals spent vast sums to bring in new additions, Wenger began to look a relic of a bygone age and unrest grew among Arsenal supporters being asked to pay the highest ticket prices while other clubs paid the highest transfer fees.

The situation reached breaking point at Wembley 12 months ago, when Wenger delayed his decision over signing a new contract until after the FA Cup Final against Hull.
Arsenal FA Cup victory parade 20151 of 11

Wenger has never publicly admitted his thought process but those close to him believe he may have walked away had Arsenal not shown their ability to get themselves over the line, end the nine-year trophy drought and change the narrative that this was a team trapped by its own inner demons.

He signed a new contract because Wenger believed he and this team were capable of winning the Premier League and, ultimately, the Champions League — the one prize to have eluded the Frenchman during his illustrious career.

Arsenal may have never seriously challenged for the title this season but third place is an important step forward and the commanding nature of their performance against Villa was a marked improvement from their nervy, tentative display in the Final a year earlier.

There are no excuses now. Chelsea are the best team in the country and Wenger is right to point out others will strengthen, with Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham all ready to invest as they seek a return to former glories.

Wenger is on the same path but the obstacles in his way have been removed. There is no two-legged Champions League qualification play-off in August, distracting from the opening weeks of the Premier League season and creating uncertainty for potential signings. There are no financial constraints at the club now, with the debt on Emirates Stadium driven down and the coffers swollen by lucrative sponsorship deals with Puma and Emirates.

There should be no summer-long drama over the departure of a high-profile player; Theo Walcott’s contract situation is unresolved but both parties are keen to extend his stay and an amicable agreement appears likely.

Wenger speaks of his desire for cohesion and calm as Arsenal plot their next campaign because so often chaos has reigned.


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