Arsenal waited until the last game of the domestic top-flight season to produce their best performance, as they defeated Chelsea in the FA Cup final.
Alexis Sanchez gave the Gunners an early lead against the Premier League champions, and they were the better team on the day even though Diego Costa was allowed to level just minutes after Antonio Conte’s side were reduced to ten-men when Victor Moses was shown a second yellow card. Level terms lasted just three minutes, though, when Aaron Ramsey headed home on 79.
Arsenal, inspired by some excellent performances by the likes of Sanchez, Rob Holding and skipper Per Mertesacker, were able to hold on to clinch the famous old trophy for a record 13th time. It was also a personal achievement for Wenger, who has now won the competition a record seven times and made no secret of his pride at such an accomplishment after the match.
“No one gave us a chance at Wembley and we responded with attitude and class,” he said. “We had an outstanding performance from the first minute onwards. This team has suffered, but they’ve united and responded. They showed strength and unity and played spectacular football. I’m proud having done this – winning the championship without losing and winning seven FA Cups.”
Wenger has endured perhaps the most difficult season of his lengthy reign at Arsenal, as they once more failed to mount a bid for a first Premier League title since 2004. They also crashed out of the UEFA Champions League in embarrassing fashion against Bayern Munich, and they finished outside of the top four meaning they will not play in Europe’s premier competition next season.
The French coach is out of contract this summer, and many fans have demanded he resign – with some even paying for a banner to be trailed by an aeroplane insisting he go. Although he has yet to confirm what his intentions are, he has revealed he will be meeting with the board this week, and the general consensus is that he will shortly announce he is staying at the Emirates Stadium.
“I am in a public job, I know I have to face criticism and I accept that,” he said. “I don’t mind facing criticism from supporters or from journalists, I will always try to answer it if I can, but once the game starts you should stand behind your team. Some of what has been going on during games this season has been unacceptable in my view. If you are a fan you should support your team.
“I know what I would like to happen, but I don’t know exactly what will happen. I don’t feel that winning the Cup will necessarily change anything. It would be a bit ridiculous were 20 years of service to be decided by the result of one game, and neither should the future of the club depend on a single game. There is no perfect time to depart, I just want to do what is best for the club.”