Arsenal's 2014 FA Cup final win vs. Hull City 'vital,' says Wenger
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has acknowledged his side's 2014 FA Cup final triumph over Hull City may have saved his job, and believes the result was crucial for his team on their journey to becoming the title-contending team they are today.
As Arsenal prepare to face Hull for the third straight year in the tournament, Wenger is reminded by how different things may have been had his team fallen to Steve Bruce's side in that 2014 final.
That victory, when the Gunners came from 2-0 down to win 3-2 after extra time, ended a nine-year title drought and kept Wenger at the club. The manager admitted he may not have been given a new three-year contract had the team lost that game but said the victory was crucial not just for him personally but for the entire team.
"It was important because we had not won trophies, and people wanted trophies, so of course it was vital," Wenger said. "I think also it was vital because nobody could imagine that we would get into the FA Cup final against Hull and lose.
"No disrespect to Hull, but the size of our opponent would have made it worse. If you go into a final against Man United, people think you can win or you can lose. When you go to a final against Hull, everybody expects you absolutely to win, and the disappointment would have been bigger."
Wenger, who is in his 20th season as Arsenal manager, was in the last year of his contract then and had postponed talks about an extension until after the campaign. And he made it clear that staying at the club was far from a given if they had lost.
"I don't know [what would have happened]. On my side, it's always very clear. I'm committed to this club and I think I've shown that," the Frenchman said. "One day I will show you all the proposals I've rejected [from other clubs] to stay here. That means on my side it was always very clear. I'm committed to do well. If I don't do well enough, I hope one day the club will tell me."
And while the taunts about Arsenal's title drought are now gone after two consecutive FA Cup triumphs, Wenger still doesn't think the team gets enough credit for their consistent top-four finishes in the Premier League.
"People are very demanding. When you look at our consistency, we are the only one club who for such a long time has always been at the top," Wenger said. "It always looks easy as long as it happens. But maybe you will see one day that it's not as easy as it looks and that to keep that consistency over the years is very difficult. For me, consistency is the most difficult thing to achieve for a club. Once it is there, everybody considers it as normal."
Wenger again pointed to the financial restraints he worked under for years after the team moved into the Emirates Stadium, saying, "We had half the resources of the other clubs, we had to sell our best players and we had to stay at the top as well. After that, everybody forgets and just say, 'Why did you not win?' "
Now that Arsenal can once again compete with their rivals in the transfer market -- as evidenced by the purchases of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez -- Wenger insisted that he's still a good enough manager to win the league.
"When I have the players and the team I can deliver," Wenger said. "We are the only ones who won the championship without losing a game [in 2003-04]. Nobody else has done it. And they had good teams as well. We have been remarkably consistent and when we can deliver, we deliver."
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.