Arsenal's FA Cup-Winning Goal Symbolised Arsene Wenger's Football Philosophy

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistMay 19, 2014

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 17:  Captain Thomas Vermaelen of Arsenal passes the trophy to Arsene Wenger manager of Arsenal (R) after the FA Cup with Budweiser Final match between Arsenal and Hull City at Wembley Stadium on May 17, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

It was fitting that the goal that delivered Arsene Wenger's first trophy since 2005 perfectly symbolised the Arsenal manager's football philosophy.

Aaron Ramsey's cute extra-time strike in the Gunners 3-2 FA Cup final win over Hull City was a tribute to Wenger's fidelity to creative, and forward-thinking, passing football.

Throughout the nine years Arsenal had gone without silverware, Wenger was frequently forced to defend his belief in attack. The open style of play his teams took into every game, no matter how big, was seen as a prime reason for that trophy drought.

Every time Arsenal fell short and Wenger saw silverware elude his grasp, his insistence on winning in style was always the first thing blamed. The more Wenger clung to his ideals, the more pundits, fans and opposition managers chided him as out of touch or naive.

Those critical calls have been heard loud and often during this season. Arsenal tried to play their football at places like Anfield, Stamford Bridge and the Etihad Stadium.

Each time Wenger and his players suffered for their bravery. They endured a trio of heavy defeats that wrecked their title aspirations in the English Premier League.

Yet Wenger never wavered. Faced with unrelenting pressure and abuse, the notoriously inflexible Frenchman stuck to his principles about the way the game should be played.

Mikel Arteta suggested Wenger's refusal to abandon Arsenal's style was key in the cup turnaround.
Mikel Arteta suggested Wenger's refusal to abandon Arsenal's style was key in the cup turnaround.Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

A goal down at halftime at Wembley, Wenger reinforced that belief to his players, according to midfielder Mikel Arteta, speaking to Arsenal Player, reported writer Isaac Moore:

The manager's speech at half-time was brilliant. [He told us] to keep believing in how we should do it and keep performing.

He told us to stay calm. We had done the most difficult thing, which was to score the first one [after going two down] so now the game was open, we had plenty of time to do it, we could not rush it. It was brilliant, I think the lads continued to play and we showed a lot of experience and composure.

Continuing to play their game and staying true to their way of doing things, no matter the cost. Those are Wenger's defining principles in action.

When he needed them most, those principles served Wenger well. He certainly needed them after his team almost fatally fell 2-0 down to their upstart opponents in less than eight minutes.

But that's the funny thing about principles. They are defined by whether or not they are abandoned or clung to when everything is at stake.

Make no mistake, everything was at stake for Wenger on that sun-drenched Saturday at Wembley.

Everything, including the legacy of a true visionary who single-handedly redefined Arsenal's playing style and global image. Everything, including the chance to salvage that legacy that had steadily unravelled during a near-decade of missed opportunity and underachievement.

But when Ramsey poked the ball past goalkeeper Allan McGregor in the 109th minute, the fabric of Wenger's tenure with the Gunners was stitched back together, stronger than before.

It was appropriate that the move to create the history-making goal exemplified everything Wenger has practised and preached since he took over in September 1996.

It began with Jack Wilshere, a lively extra-period substitute, turning a smart pass into the box. The ball went to another substitute, young striker Yaya Sanogo, who had facilitated a switch to 4-4-2. There's that fabled plan B again.

Sanogo, a classic Wenger punt on a free transfer last summer, fed the ball to strike partner Olivier Giroud. Typically clumsy and wasteful for most of the game, Giroud did the one thing he does better than most: produce a clever touch to provide a chance for a teammate.

His instinctive backheel rolled into the path of Ramsey, who was making a now-trademark forward-breaking run. The Welshman's devilishly quick and precisely cushioned hit arrowed straight into the bottom corner, and Arsenal won the cup.

Creative-minded forward players had dovetailed with a daring midfield runner to overwhelm a defence and score. That is Wenger's philosophy perfectly brought to life.

It is personified by intricate combination play between a triangle of advanced players, in this case Sanogo, Giroud and Ramsey. That has been pattern of so many Arsenal goals under Wenger.

It was also fitting that the winning strike came from Ramsey. The player signed for a bargain fee as a 17-year-old in 2008, exemplifying the Wenger approach to team-building.

It is an approach defined by responsible spending, targeting precocious talents who can become more than they are when they join the club. That philosophy has demanded patience, and not always received it, from the club's fans since 2005, and it's worth noting how Wenger never lost faith in Ramsey's talent when many others did.

A one-time prodigy turned mega-star scoring a goal crafted by creative daring and athletic talent. It's doubtful Wenger could have dreamed a better way to banish that trophy drought to history.


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