The players that Arsenal will task with delivering the FA Cup
Has it really been seven years since that drab afternoon at the Millennium Stadium? To this day, 21st May 2005 remains the date in which Arsenal Football Club last had their hands on a major trophy as they lifted the FA Cup following a 5-4 win on penalties over fierce adversaries Manchester United. Since then the Gunners have slipped into a chronic trophy drought that has seen them fall away from the Premier League title race and barely scrape a top four finish in recent years.
And as the club fell deeper into decline, their leading players started to jump ship in search of silverware elsewhere in the world growing weary of the ‘this will be our year’ mentality that ultimate failed to bear fruit. Robin van Persie, the last survivor of the Cardiff triumph, and Alex Song became the latest players to leave the Emirates Stadium and slung the club into a much-needed transition. But where Arsenal transfer news is usually saved for a deadline day splurge, Arsene Wenger conducted his business early to offset the loss of van Persie and Song.
The addition of strikers Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud, along with that of midfielder Santi Cazorla, has given supporters renewed optimism that they could be celebrating a trophy success come the end of the season. But with Wenger’s penchant to deploy significantly weaker squads in cup competitions, who will be charged with bringing the FA Cup back to the Emirates?
Considering their recent arrival to English football, it’s probable that Podolski and Cazorla will be kept until the latter rounds to ensure Arsenal’s progress to the final, given their swift acclimatisation to the Premier League. Giroud, on the other hand, has struggled to get to grips with the physicality of the top-flight in his first couple of games and Wenger may opt to use the competition as a platform to accelerate the adjustment period. If he’s struggling for goals by the time January comes around and low on confidence, a run out against lower league opposition would work wonders for the Frenchman.
It will also give the younger players an opportunity to get some game time under their belts. The likes of Francis Coquelin, Emmanuel Frimpong and Carl Jenkinson are all bright talents and will give Wenger a chance to evaluate both their progression and first team credentials. The Arsenal chief is known for using cup competitions as an educational tool for his development squad and, depending on the opposition, will rest his senior contingent as the club prepares to battle on four fronts next term.
The faces currently adorning the fringes of the first team squad could also be given a platform to shine and prove they have something more to offer than just making up the numbers on the substitutes’ bench. Although he won’t admit it, the lack of silverware in the last seven years will be bugging Wenger and the FA Cup represents the best chance to finally end their dry spell.