Arsenal has a chance to end its eight-year trophy drought when the club takes on Hull City in the 2014 FA Cup final. The outcome of that result will likely have a major effect on the club beyond adding to the trophy cabinet.
It may be just under a month away but that game is undoubtedly at the front of every Arsenal fan's mind.
The consensus is the Gunners will win, and the club's 3-0 away win over its fellow finalists would have done little to deter such thoughts. Despite that, anything can happen in the 90—or 120—minutes on that day.
The addition to a dusty trophy cabinet notwithstanding, the impact in terms of personnel (both on the sidelines and on the pitch), team mentality and the club’s stature in the game will be affected by the result in the final. While the outcome of the FA Cup isn't the only factor impacting these areas, it can help push it over the edge, either positively or negatively.
A positive result may well act as a stepping stone to a much more positive future than simply delighting in player progress, increasing defensive solidity or Champions League continuity.
Essentially, that means the ability to consistently keep, and attract, better players, a winning mentality and of course, more silverware. At the very least, Arsenal could continue plodding along as before, with an added pep in its step thanks to getting that trophy monkey off its back.
It's the possibility of losing the FA Cup final that provides more intriguing scenarios for Arsenal's future.
Should the Gunners inexplicably lose at this final hurdle, things may spiral into a period of mid-table mediocrity and a host of Nicklas Bendtners and Sebastien Squillacis. OK, that last statement is more than a bit facetious but you get the picture.
There has been no shortage of star players departing during recent transfer windows—except the summer of 2013—and that has had an effect on the club’s ability to progress. A loss in the FA Cup, coupled with a possible fifth-place finish would certainly see a return to that trend of departures.
Arsenal.com provided Arsene Wenger's comments concerning the future of Bacary Sagna, and it's not a positive outlook at the moment. Speaking with Nacho Labarga of Sport 360 (h/t ESPN.co.uk), Santi Cazorla raised the possiblity of leaving the club in search of silverware, and there have been constant rumours concerning club captain Thomas Vermaelen, with his agent telling Calcio Mercato (via Football-Italia) that Napoli are interested in the Belgian.
It’s even possible, though unlikely, the new man on the block, Mesut Ozil, could make a swift exit through revolving doors. That outcome may go hand in hand with the future of Wenger.
Along with considering the departure of key players, Wenger also needs to sort out his future at the club. There have been contrasting reports where that is concerned, as this week alone Goal.com's Wayne Veysey reported Wenger is ready to leave, while the Mirror's John Cross states a new contract will be signed.
Bleacher Report's own Arsenal Correspondent James McNicholas took a look at how losing Wenger would affect Arsenal. Plenty of valid points are made, including an insight on why Mesut Ozil joined the club and why, sometimes, a change is necessary.
A loss should most definitely bring the Wenger era at Arsenal closer to an end, if not terminate it all together. A win gives him a little room to breathe provided he uses it smartly and quickly to rectify the deficiencies in the squad.
The question is, though, whether a win or loss should matter in deciding the Frenchman’s future at the club. After 17 long years, with almost half that time trophyless, Arsenal is stale and needs a change. One thing that will affect that decision is the board's fear of replacing Wenger considering what’s happened at Manchester United with David Moyes this season.
The uncertainty of the players' reaction to such a move, especially since many were nurtured by Wenger, would also play heavily in the decision-making process.
Any possibility of the board having such a discussion seems to have been rendered unnecessary, given report that Wenger was adamant he will stay in an interview with beIN Sports broadcast on talkSPORT (via the Guardian). Still, one would think the board would require an FA Cup to make the decision a little easier.
Arsenal players could be galvanized by a new man in charge should events somehow not end with Wenger signing a new contract. The players will be expected to be professional where that's concerned, as they should also be during the remaining league fixtures. Arsenal is currently in the driver's seat in the race for fourth place, leading Everton by a point with a game in hand and an easier schedule, so the players will be sparing a thought or two for the FA Cup final.
Such thoughts may lead to unwanted additional pressure given the club's recent history, or lack thereof, in winning.
It may be a bit harsh to say but this Arsenal side is neither feared nor seen as winners like many of its predecessors. Some sides had one or the other, and the "Invincibles" had both. The FA Cup provides a chance to mend that image somewhat and relieve the likes of Laurent Koscielny and Wojciech Szczesny from memories of the 2011 Carling Cup final.
In the event of a loss, the identity of a club as a winner, a characteristic seemingly long gone, will be desperately hard to salvage.
Winning breeds more winning, and doing so in the FA Cup would make the club seem that much stronger.
The added effect of winning the FA Club would go some way to helping the club regain some of its lost status within the world game. While consistency in the Champions League has to be lauded, it’s certainly no longer the case Arsenal is even really considered a dark horse for the competition as in the past. Even the club’s status as a “Big Four” member in the Premier League has been down mainly to history.
Arsenal has effectively been one of, if not the, biggest underachieving clubs in the last few seasons.
Arsenal fans worldwide will have one eye warily on the date for the FA Cup final knowing, regardless of what happens between now and then for either side, anything can happen. They'll certainly remember that the last time Arsenal was in this position it lost to a club that was eventually relegated.
There will be three more games for Arsenal to focus on between now and then, but May 17 will be the most important of all.