England’s premier cup competition ended Arsenal‘s trophy-laden spell among the best teams in England.
But with five days to go until Arsene Wenger‘s side take on Hull in the season’s showpiece it could be the tournament to mark their return to the top table.
It’s almost nine years to the day when the Gunners saw off Manchester United in a 5-4 penalty shootout win to lift the cup.
So long ago that the game was played at Cardiff’s Millenium Stadium.
So long ago Patrick Vieira, Lauren, Gilberto Silva and Dennis Bergkamp were all in their pomp.
And it’s nine years too long for one of England’s most illustrious clubs.
It’s a pivotal time for Wenger and his new band of Arsenal stars. He has no Thierry Henry, Bergkamp or Freddie Ljungberg.
But he does have Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla to lead the charge towards silverware.
So who expects lowly opponents Hull to cause them any problems?
I certainly don’t. The problems are all Arsenal made.
If it isn’t a sickening amount of injuries forcing Wenger to go without his very best players, it’s a chronic inability to shut the floodgates in the biggest games.
Then the media jumps on their back and the wheels fall off.
For nine seasons this has been happening at Highbury/Emirates.
For nine seasons the Gunners faithful have built themselves up for failure.
Making it ten would be disastrous. That’s why Saturday at Wembley will be the biggest day in recent memory for Wenger and Arsenal.
Falling to a Hull team who laboured for much of the Premier League season before finding for after an influx of capable players in January would be terminal.
The faith in Wenger could vanish once and for all. And there’s no predicting the ramifications it could have on everything he has built in 18 years in North London.
This could be the straw that broke the camel’s back.
But that won’t be on the minds of the players, fans or Wenger himself.
This has to be seen as a chance to embark on a new period of competition for the club.
Players like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Laurent Koscielny, Kieran Gibbs, Wojciech Szczesny and Ramsey have never experienced what it’s like to be at the very top.
They’ve never experienced winning a trophy.
Suddenly they could go from having potential to realising it.
Trophies make players. Just ask Steven Gerrard,
His failure to win the Premier League won’t mar his reputation. But it will always be a blight on a glorious career with Liverpool.
Do top talents like Ramsey and Oxlade-Chamberlain want to go through their career without any trophies at all?
At least Gerrard has everything but the league to his name.
Arsenal need to return to the top and do it fast.
And they must start with the FA Cup on Saturday. Suddenly another disappointing season becomes a successful one.
They haven’t won the league or really impressed in Europe, but trophies are all that matters. And they could have one of them.
It’s do-or-die time for Wenger. The Arsenal fans expect nothing else but a win to bring the good times back.
Find out more on the FA Cup Final this Saturday and check out the football betting odds at William Hill.