Arsène Wenger has won the FA Cup five times since arriving at Arsenal in 1996. But Saturday’s win over Hull City, in which Aaron Ramsey secured the winner in extra time, may have produced the most important silverware in the Frenchman’s time at the club.
You’d think that Wenger might, perhaps, value Arsenal’s league titles more. After all, the club has won the Premier League three times with him at the helm. Or maybe he’d be more proud of the two times the Gunners did the double, clinching both the league and the FA Cup. And what about The Invincibles, the team of 2003-2004 that went through the league unbeaten to reach the title?
Nope. It is the 2014 FA Cup that is most important. Wenger said:
We waited a long time for this and the happiness is linked sometimes with the suffering, and the time that you have to wait. This was more important than all the others. We have twice won the double, but were not under pressure then like we were today.
Not to mention all the jokes that Arsenal would’ve had to endure. Trophy-less for the past eight years, the Gunners were everyone’s favorite “failures,” producing squads stocked with good players yet often finishing fourth in the league.
Hull taking a 2-0 lead after less than ten minutes didn’t help, and Arsenal supporters were already thinking up convincing reasons as to why they’d be calling in sick to work on Monday. But they started to believe when Laurent Koscielny scored the equalizer in the 71st minute, and were over the moon when Ramsey’s winner came in the 109th.
And for good reason. Wenger also provided some encouraging words about the meaning of Arsenal’s latest trophy:
This is an important moment in the life of this team; to lose today would have been a major setback, but winning gives us a good platform to come back stronger next year.
If the FA Cup proves to be the boost Arsenal need to really challenge for the title, or to progress further in the Champions League, then yes, this really could be the most important trophy of Wenger’s career.
While there are valid reasons to make early judgments, it’s important to note that some perceived setbacks don’t change much while others put a serious crimp in tournament hopes.
Russia (2 games played) — Fortunes way up — Two resounding wins combined with early tumult in Group B could help Russia consider a quarterfinal spot.
Uruguay — Fortunes level — Jose Gimenez’s 89th minute winner may allow the CONMEBOL side to render its group finale moot by hammering Saudi Arabia.
Egypt (2 games played) — Fortunes way down — Could be out of the tournament should Uruguay get a point against lowly Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.
Saudi Arabia — Fortunes down — Unsure anyone figured the Green Falcons as anything other than an obstacle, but their performance against host Russia was miserable.
Iran — Fortunes up — Carlos Queiroz would’ve circled the Morocco opener as a must-win. Mission accomplished, however it was done.
Portugal — Fortunes level — Needed a PK, goalie error, and wonder free kick to get a point from Spain. Still, got the point.
Spain — Fortunes down — Still look capable of imposing themselves on the tournament, but too many errors in their first outing.
Morocco — Fortunes down — Probably should’ve had a point against Iran, but would’ve wanted three anyway. Very disappointing and now a mountain ahead.
France — Fortunes level — Clearly the better side against Australia, didn’t inspire title confidence but could’ve easily nabbed a three- or four-goal win.
Denmark — Fortunes up — Despite being the second-best side against Peru, now can expect the knockout rounds by beating the Socceroos.
Australia — Fortunes down — France first was always going to be a struggle, but to fight so valiantly and fall to an own goal will be a mental hurdle ahead of Peru.
Peru — Fortunes down — Terrific energy and performance would’ve led to a win with any finishing luck, but getting a result from Denmark was very important. A loss presents a major challenge.
Croatia — Fortunes up — Its tactical options for the second match against Argentina are wide open after securing three points against Nigeria.
Argentina — Fortunes down — Forget control of the game and Lionel Messi’s 11 shots on target; Not getting full points against Iceland is a significant setback. A group stage without Messi is possible.
Iceland — Fortunes up — It remains hard to picture Iceland getting out of the group, but the UEFA side has now flummoxed Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in successive tournaments. Can they find a win against Nigeria to set up a wild final day?
Nigeria — Fortunes down — Group D was always going to be tough, but a 2-0 loss to Croatia means the margin of error is almost zero.
Serbia — Fortunes up — Forget how Serbia won, their fortunes have leapt due to Brazil drawing Switzerland.
Brazil — Fortunes down — Drawing their second-trickiest game could see Neymar and Co. in position to finish second in the group instead of first. The only silver lining is that Germany may also fail to claim its group and make runner-up a good thing for the Round of 16.
Switzerland — Fortunes up — Maybe Swiss supporters were expecting it, but a result against Brazil is a positive step for a team that took Argentina to extra time at the 2014 tournament but underwhelmed at EURO 2016.
Costa Rica — Fortunes down — Now needs to beat Brazil to have much hope of anything going into the final group match vs. Switzerland.
Sweden — Fortunes level — Beating South Korea was nice and we understand the chemistry argument, but a certain Zlatan Ibrahimovic would’ve feasted on the spoils offered in the opener.
Mexico — Fortunes way up — El Tri is a very good tournament team, but if you had them beating Germany 1-0 in the opener you’re a better prognosticator than me.
Germany — Fortunes down — Still favored to come out of the group and deep enough to repeat as champions, being unable to get a result from Mexico will only raise more questions about leaving Leroy Sane home (fair or not).
South Korea — Fortunes down — Would’ve wanted no less than four points from the Sweden and Mexico encounters, and has zero heading into the second against El Tri.
Belgium — Fortunes up — Delivered expected dominance against Panama and could have a spot in the knockout rounds sewn up by the end of Day Two versus Tunisia.
England — Fortunes up — There will not be Wayne Rooney questions about this tournament’s captain, as Harry Kane scored twice on a day he perhaps wasn’t at his best. Will clinch a berth in the knockout rounds by beating Panama next, you’d have to think.
Tunisia — Fortunes slightly down — Needed to surprise England or Belgium to get out of the group, and still has a second opportunity after losing late to the Three Lions.
Panama — Fortunes slightly down — Not sure anyone was expecting a Cinderella story, but even those will feel it more unlikely after a big loss to Belgium.
Japan — Fortunes up — Not a bad team at all, but prospects were dim given the talent of the group. After beating Colombia in match one, there’s a house money feel to this one.
Senegal — Fortunes up — Controversy aside, the Lions of Teranga deserved all three points against Poland and are in pole position to win the group.
Poland — Fortunes down — Disappointing is an understatement leading into a match versus Colombia which could leave both on the outskirts with a match to go.
Colombia — Fortunes down — Carlos Sanchez’s third minute red card didn’t ultimately doom them, but the task is tall with equally desperate Poland up next.
Head coach Unai Emery said: “We are very pleased that Bernd Leno will be joining us. Bernd is a goalkeeper of high quality and experience. He has been a top performer and regular number one goalkeeper with Leverkusen in the Bundesliga for the past seven years. We are all excited that Bernd has chosen Arsenal Football Club and look forward to start working with him in pre-season.”
Russia goals: Fathy o.g. (48′), Cheryshev (59′), Dzyuba (62′)
Egypt: Salah (PK, 73′)
Next: Russia-Uruguay, Egypt-Saudi Arabia
Hosts Russia scored a trio of second half goals to all but seal the first spot in the 2018 World Cup’s Round of 16 with a 3-1 win over Egypt on Tuesday in Saint Petersburg.
The loss means Egypt is 0-2, the Pharoahs unable to find momentum despite the return of Mohamed Salah. Egypt needs a wild combination of factors to stay alive for the knockout rounds, and is likely heading home.
Salah won and converted a penalty for Egypt, while Denis Cheryshev, Artem Dzyuba, and an Egyptian own goal accounted for Russia’s goals.