LONDON: Arsenal will need no reminder of the pitfalls in store for them at Wembley Stadium on Saturday (today) where they will be favourites to beat Hull City in the FA Cup final and claim their first silverware for nine years. Three years ago Arsene Wenger’s side were also expected to beat Birmingham City in the League Cup final but a late goal by Obafemi Martins after a calamitous defensive mix-up ruined the script and prolonged the fans’ suffering. Since then manager Arsene Wenger’s long reign at the club has occasionally been questioned by even some of his most loyal disciples, with some advocating a change of direction.
Arsenal’s annual qualification for the Champions League, now standing at 17 seasons, continues to justify the club hierarchy’s faith in the wily Frenchman, although every year that passes without a trophy appears to add another wrinkle to Wenger’s face. Wenger has been at pains to play down the significance of Saturday’s result, saying it will have no bearing on his ongoing contract discussion, but the 64-year-old is fooling no one as Arsenal bid for a record-equalling 11th FA Cup. Defeat by a Hull side appearing in their first FA Cup final would re-open the debate about his future.
Victory, following a fourth-placed finish in the Premier League having challenged strongly for the title for two thirds of the season, would reinforce the belief that Wenger is still the man to mastermind a golden new era for the Gunners. Having finished the Premier League season with five consecutive victories and Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey back from injury, Arsenal will be buoyant as they prepare to face Steve Bruce’s Hull, but not complacent. While Arsenal are preparing for their 18th FA Cup final, Hull’s previous best performance in the competition was a semifinal appearance in 1930 when they lost to Arsenal in a replay.
The Gunners went on to win their maiden FA Cup with a 2-0 victory over Huddersfield Town in the final. In their 110-year history Hull have never won anything other than the Division Three title in 1966. Manager Bruce said that while Arsenal are favourites, his side will take heart from Wigan Athletic’s surprise victory over Manchester City in last year’s final and also the fact that neutrals settling down to watch the match on TV will be rooting for his underdogs. Hull’s form tailed off at the end of the season, although they were never in real danger of relegation, but Bruce said the thought of a showpiece final has been a perfect tonic. Hull will need no big motivational speeches beforehand either, according to midfielder David Meyler.
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