Arsene Wenger, now the most successful manager in FA Cup history, recently admitted that the lack of clarity on his own future had affected Arsenal throughout the season. But after guiding the Gunners to an impressive triumph over Premier League champions Chelsea at Wembley, the team spirit and character shown was hugely impressive and testament to the players involved.
The pulsating final saw Wenger’s team match up with the formation which Conte has set the standard with this season, playing three defenders at the back despite a defensive injury crisis leaving Arsenal with only Per Mertesacker and Rob Holding as the two recognised senior centre backs alongside Nacho Monreal.
There were concerns from vast swathes of fans about Mertesacker’s lack of pace, yet he displayed the required leadership qualities and intelligent reading of the game to keep out Chelsea’s attacking triumvirate for most of the game.
Wenger’s pre-match comments showed months of frustration at what he has had to deal with from the ‘outside’. His critics have called for him to leave at the end of the season following Arsenal’s demise in the league and Europe but his substitution minutes after Diego Costa’s equaliser saw Olivier Giroud find Aaron Ramsey with a pin-point cross to give Arsenal a lead which they certainly deserved following their first half chances.
“I believe that 99 per cent of Arsenal fans are fantastic people who stand behind the team,"he said. "You want to play for them. In my position you’ve worked hard to get here, you want to just win the competition for the club, for the team. Indirectly, I’ll be happy if we do.”
There can be no doubt over Wenger’s tremendous loyalty to Arsenal over the past 21 years and perhaps it is the 2017 FA Cup win that will go down as the most significant in his Gunners career. While the club have failed in major competitions in 2017 the achievement of winning some silverware to salvage pride and stop their London rivals from completing an impressive double should be applauded.
"It's been up and down season. I'm happy for the manager, to get another FA Cup, I'm delighted,” Aaron Ramsey told BBC Sport after his late winner.
"Of course I want him to stay at the club. He deserves this. He changed the formation and it paid off. We owe him a lot.”
The Arsenal players want him to stay and Wenger revealed after the game that a decision will be made in a board meeting with chairman Sir Chips Keswick and majority shareholder Stan Kroenke on Tuesday. It seems written in the stars for the Frenchman to extend his stay at the club but signing off with a record FA Cup win would also be the perfect way to end his Gunners reign.
"I'm very proud [to have record number of wins]. I'm proud to have done two things that have never been done; winning the championship undefeated and winning record number of FA Cups
Whatever happens between now and Tuesday, the man who has presided over two decades worth of squads, a new stadium, seven FA Cups, an unbeaten season and much more deserves his moment of glory.
Nobody deserves the abuse or vitriol that some have given him at times this campaign, and he has silenced those critics to reiterate his status as Arsenal’s most successful manager.