Winning last season’s FA Cup Final against Hull was not only a welcome reprieve for Arsenal to end a barren nine-year trophy drought, but also offered an opportunity for Arsene Wenger to build on the success at Wembley and take it into the current campaign. Although the FA Cup remains a prestigious tournament which Arsenal were proud to win, it could have been so much better for the Gunners if they managed to hold onto the dominant lead they established in the Premier League. Winning one of the domestic cups may have dampened the blow of letting their league campaign unravel at the blink of an eye, but it created greater belief that Arsenal can still compete at the highest level and be strong contenders for more trophies. Signing Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck further ignited hope and belief that the Gunners have the quality to succeed in 2014/2015, although a lack of investment in a top quality defending following the departure of Thomas Vermaelen could come back to haunt Wenger.
As the 2014/2015 Premier League nears the half-way point, it is already shaping up to be a wonderful, yet unpredictable, season where literally anything is possible. Punters have found it difficult to correctly predict the outcome of matches this season, with teams able to beat anyone on their day; Stoke beating Manchester City at the Etihad and Leicester putting five past Manchester United may have been coupon busters, but also illustrates the beauty of football. Arsenal have experienced their own difficulties in the Premier League this season, with a lack of form and consistency leaving the Gunners a massive thirteen points behind leaders Chelsea after sixteen games. Although Sanchez has proved to be a superb signing for Wenger, the Frenchman’s inability to address Arsenal’s fragility in defence may ultimately result in another season without a Premier League trophy.
Being drawn in the same group as Borussia Dortmund, Galatasaray and Anderlecht may have been considered a potential banana skin, but Arsenal made light work of the task that was ahead of them. Losing 2-0 in the opening Group D fixture in Dortmund may have left Gunners fans fearing the worst, but four victories and a draw followed to send Arsenal safely through to the knock-out stages. The manner in which they let a three-goal lead against Anderlecht at the Emirates slip may remain a major cause for concern, but Arsenal ruthlessly dismissed Galatasaray in both games and gained revenge against Dortmund in North London. Finishing the group as runners-up left Arsenal with the daunting prospect of facing the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, but they will feel very confident of getting past Monaco over two legs. Chelsea proved last season that any team can go all the way to glory in knock-out football despite not being at their best, and with the attacking power Arsenal possess, there is no reason why they could not replicate the same success against all odds.
Although progression in the domestic cups may not be at the forefront of the club and fans’ minds alike, they represent a wonderful opportunity for Arsenal to add more silverware to the trophy cabinet. The Capital One Cup has allowed Wenger’s youth stars to flourish over the years, but a tough draw against high-flying Southampton unfortunately ended Arsenal’s hope before they had even begun. Nathaniel Clyne’s wonder goal put Arsenal’s young guns out in the third round – a result which has left defending the FA Cup their only hope of success in the domestic cup competitions. A repeat of last season’s Final against Hull awaits next month in what could be a potentially tricky game against Steve Bruce’s team, but it should be a game Arsenal have to win if they have any chance of retaining the prestigious trophy.
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