Arsenal aim to shed failure tag, can Hull stop their victory bus?
Mourinho jibe still rankles at the Emirates, where open-top bus is on standby ahead of FA Cup
THREE months after Jose Mourinho branded Arsene Wenger a "specialist in failure", it's clear the remark still rankles within the Emirates Stadium. Speaking on the eve of the FA Cup Final against Hull at Wembley, Mikel Arteta dismissed the Chelsea's manager jibe. "If you analyse everything he [Wenger] has done for the club, then if he is a failure I have a different opinion," retorted the Spanish midfielder, when asked about Mourinhi's insult. "I don't like it when someone criticises my team-mates, the staff, the manager, the club, because I see what he does every day to look after this club."
Nonetheless the fact remains that Arsenal last won a trophy nine years ago, the 2005 FA Cup Final, and no one at the club is in any doubt as to the importance of victory against Hull. "With the history we have over the last nine years without any trophies at all, obviously it could be a great turning point," said Arteta. "I can't sense any fear. What I sense is a big determination."
Saturday will be Arsenal's 18th appearance in an FA Cup final, a number equalled only by Manchester United in the tournament's history, and should the Gunners beat Hull it will be their 11th triumph, again a feat only United can match in the 142 years since the FA Cup was inaugurated.
"The history of the FA Cup in England is massive compared to Spain," explained Arteta. "I was very surprised with the atmosphere we got in the semi-final against Wigan, so I imagine how it is going to be like on Saturday."
Few players in the current Arsenal squad have been at the club as long as captain Thomas Vermaelen, and the Belgian defender believes that victory over Hull would usher in a bright new era for the Gunners. "There's loads of potential in this team, a lot of good players, so it will give them confidence for the following years," he replied, when asked what victory would mean to the club.
Arguably Arsenal's most dangerous opponent on Saturday will be complacency, and the Gunners gifted some early motivation to Hull on Thursday when photos emerged of the squad's victory bus. According to the London Evening Standard "an eagle-eyed North Londoner" saw the open-top red bus in a garage, adorned with the club crest and emblazoned with the words "The FA Cup Winners 2014".
The photo could come back to haunt Arsenal but only if their players let the pressure of the occasion get to them. On paper the Gunners have way too much quality and experience for Hull, and striker Olivier Giroud has shrugged off suggestions that nerves could play a factor on Saturday. "I'm used to having [pressure] on my shoulders and I'm OK with the pressure and I like it," explained the Frenchman. "I want to transform it into motivation."
Showing the same steely determination that has brought him 22 goals this season, Giroud added: "We know what we have to do to win this cup and we all focus on the same targets and the same goal... we feel really excited because the final is a special moment for a player and especially for the club and for the fans as well. We have been waiting for a trophy for nine years now so we really want to win it for all the Gunners."