Saturday, 17 May 2014

Sweet #FACup

As a British sports fan, I know I'm supposed to support the underdogs.  That's why I would love to see Atlético Madrid beat Barcelona today and win La Liga - breaking the two-club stranglehold of Barcelona and Real Madrid which has existed in Spanish football for years.  That's why I know I ought to want Hull City to beat Arsenal today, and lift the FA Cup for the first time in their history.

But, I don't.  The truth is, I want Arsenal to win today - and not just because the dodgy Penalty which Hull were awarded against Norwich earlier in the season still rankles!  No, I want Arsenal to win because, if they don't, the insufferable gloating of thousands of football fans gleefully pointing out the continuation of Arsenal's run of seasons without winning a trophy will be excruciating.

I can't be the only person getting fed up of this tired and and one-dimensional statistic being trotted out at every opportunity.  Not only is it tedious in the extreme to hear about how Arsenal haven't won a trophy since 2005 (also an FA Cup, as it happens), it is completely disingenuous to claim that this in any way makes Arsenal a 'failure' as a club, or that this is something of which they should be ashamed.

Fernando Alonso hasn't won the Formula 1 World Drivers' Championship since 2006 - but everyone still recognises that he is one of the top drivers in the sport right now.  In the light of that fact, one has to be particularly obtuse to point at this one aspect of Arsenal's recent record in football, ignoring all other factors, and claim that this somehow means they are not a successful football club.

Arsenal are a team who have not finished outside the Top 4 in the Premier League since 1996.  That level of consistency, at the very highest level, is a much more remarkable statistic than the fact they haven't won a trophy for nine years.  They have the third highest tally of League Titles in history (behind Liverpool and Man. Utd.), they have the second highest tally of FA Cups (behind Man. Utd.), and they still hold the record for the longest unbeaten run of Premier League games.  (That they have achieved this on a much more limited budget than some Premier League clubs have available to them is even more impressive.)  Moreover, I don't imagine there are many clubs in this country whose supporters and players wouldn't want to swap their 2013-14 seasons for Arsenal's!

It is harsh on Hull - who have had an excellent season, staying up in the Premier League after being promoted from the Championship this time last year, and reaching an FA Cup Final (that, in itself, is 'success'!) - to say so, but I shall be cheering on Arsenal when this year's Final gets underway this evening.  If the Gunners can go from winning Sweet F.A. to Sweet FA Cup, that will shut a lot of people up - and that will be a very good thing indeed!

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