When Santi Cazorla bagged his team's final penalty in Arsenal's 4-2 FA Cup semi-final shootout win over Wigan Athletic on Saturday, every single Arsene Wenger supporter on the planet was able to breathe a little easier.
Faced with criticism unlike anything he's ever seen during his tenure as Arsenal coach, Wenger suddenly has a chance at doing something the Gunners haven't been able to do in almost nine years: winning a trophy.
It has become one of the easiest put-downs in any discussion regarding Arsenal: The club hasn't won anything in ages, and everything from the coach to management to the financial structure that has made Arsenal the envy of most of the Premier League has been blamed for this. Hell, there's even a satirical website dedicated to the team's trophy drought.
But following the embarrassing 5-0 loss to Chelsea, pundits and fans alike where suddenly unified when playing the blame game—this was Wenger's fault. The French coach has been in charge of the club since, well, forever, and his inability to win a trophy in the last nine years was evidence it was time for him to move on.
Two excellent Lukasz Fabianski saves and a Cazorla strike later, and suddenly we got this:
In the space of 30 minutes, Arsene Wenger goes from losing his job to being on the verge of another trophy. Twitter experts be damned. :)— Soccer Translator (@worldfootballcm) April 12, 2014
This sentiment wasn't just echoed by the fans, though, as The Daily Telegraph's Jeremy Wilson showed:
Was the career of Arsene Wenger, the great stylist, just rescued by direct tactics, a scruffy goal + a pen shoot-out? It's possible— Jeremy Wilson (@JWTelegraph) April 12, 2014
Sports are all about results and the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately mentality, but if we learned anything at all from this exhilarating FA Cup semi-final, it's that the difference between winning and losing can sometimes be found in the details. In fact, it was Wenger himself who said as much, per Arsenal's Twitter account:
Wenger: "The difference between winning and losing is very small and this game has shown it again" #AFCvWAFC— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) April 12, 2014
I'm not saying Arsenal have to part ways with Wenger at the end of this season any more than I'm saying Wenger should be allowed to continue as the club's manager. But using a potential FA Cup win as the decider is not the correct path to follow.
After all, the 2013-14 season will once again be one of disappointment for the Gunners, regardless of what happens in the FA Cup final. The team showed so much promise early in the season, only to falter down the stretch in what has become one of the most predictable tendencies in Premier League football.
And on Saturday, the Gunners fell behind against a vastly inferior Wigan squad and failed to bag a winner in regulation despite the obvious gap in quality. The difference between winning and losing was indeed very small in this match, as the result was left to a penalty shootout in a fixture that should have been a cakewalk for the Gunners.
Credit Wenger for getting his team ready for this game. Credit him for setting the correct order in the penalty shootout and the introduction of Olivier Giroud, who seemed to revitalise the team's offensive output.
But don't pretend like this result, which could have gone either way following 120 minutes, suddenly makes up for the collapse the team went through during the month of March. And don't act like an FA Cup final win over Hull City of Sheffield United, both underdogs in any match against the Gunners, suddenly makes up for all which transpired during the 2013-14 season.
Is Wenger still the man for the job? That is a discussion that should be held in another article, and it's eventually up to the team's board of directors or owners to decide.
But the result of a single game shouldn't change those people's minds. Either believe in Wenger based on the entire package the manager has shown you in recent times, or don't. One game shouldn't make a difference.