KEIR RADNEDGE at WEMBLEY: Arsene Wenger is now ready to sign his contract extension after what he considered as the most pressured of all his five FA Cup wins as manager of Arsenal.
Wenger, thrown in the air and then drenched in champagne by his players after their dramatic 3-2 extra-time win over Hull, described ending the club’s nine-year trophy drought as “a relief and a happiness.”
The happiness emerged only after the final whistle following a disastrous start in which Arsenal’s dozing defence conceded two goals in eight minutes.
Wenger said: “We were hesitant and then we responded well. We made a demonstration of how not to start a Cup Final and then a demonstration of how to come back.
“I was shocked because you wonder if the shock to the team will not be too hard but I knew they would try to respond and I wanted to get a goal back before half-time
“We had waited for a long time for that so the happiness is linked with the suffering and the time we have to wait so it was a great moment at the end of the game.
“The mental aspect is very important when everybody expects you to win and at 2-0 down you’re under pressure. The Cup Final in England is special. You have seen it last year [when underdogs Wigan beat Manchester City] and you have seen it again this year.
“It was an important moment in the life of this team so to lose would have been a major setback and to win will be a good platform to come back even stronger next year.”
Wenger has come in for increasing criticism in recent seasons over his transfer strategy and his team selections, all being considered symptoms of the lack of silverware ever since Arsenal left Highbury.
Hence he said: “It was more important [to win] today than all the others. We’ve won the double twice but not under the pressure we have had today.
“Looking back I think about our run it’s amazingly difficult to play at Tottenham, Everton, Liverpool then winning the semi-final was very difficult as it was again today.”
Speculation had grown over whether Wenger would sign the contract extension awaiting him had Arsenal not won. Asked whether he was now ready to sign, he said: “Normally it should happen, yes . . . and we are in very normal circumstances.”
Hence the next target for Wenger will be the Premier League next season. Not that he was carried away by the latest twist of cup final fate.
Wenger said: “In England the Premier League is very tough. Look at the top four without Manchester United or Everton or Tottenham – who have invested a huge amount of money – while the club who won have invested an incredible amount of money. It’s difficult to beat them but we will try.”