Belfast Telegraph

Gunners are desperate to end cup drought

By Jim van Wijk

Club record signing Mesut Ozil is convinced that if Arsenal can overcome Hull to lift the FA Cup at Wembley today (5pm), then more titles will follow.

The Gunners tackle Steve Bruce's side looking to end nearly a decade without silverware.

While the Emirates Stadium club have not stood still since Patrick Vieira raised the FA Cup aloft in 2005 at Cardiff, there remains a desire for something tangible to show for all of the hard work, which has seen Arsene Wenger's side secure another shot at Champions League football once again.

Ozil, signed from Real Madrid for £43.5million in September, has just returned following a hamstring injury to provide a timely boost for Arsenal, who should have fit-again England midfielder Jack Wilshere available at Wembley along with Aaron Ramsey, although Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is battling to overcome a groin problem.

The 25-year-old German playmaker feels once the Arsenal current squad get their first taste of success, it can prove a springboard for more.

"We are in the final and we want to take this silverware now. I am convinced we will achieve that," he said.

"We can win titles with this squad, this is very important for the fans as well because they have been waiting for so long. I am very proud of the team. We qualified for the Champions League and we are in the FA Cup final.

"If we can win the cup, then it will be a great season.

"However, it will be a tough game because Hull fights till the end – nowhere else other than in England are there so many teams who never give up."

Ozil could be one of three Germans in the Arsenal starting XI at Wembley, along with forward Lukas Podolski and defender Per Mertesacker, who scored a late equaliser in the semi-final which set up a nerve-shredding penalty shoot-out against Wigan.

Podolski knows the weight of expectation will firmly be on the Gunners to finally deliver.

"We want a victory, so do the fans, and it is important for the club as well after nine years with nothing," he said.

"You go to Wembley, there are 40,000 or 50,000 Arsenal fans. The FA Cup is a big cup with a lot of history – it is not like the other cups in other leagues, so it is an important game.

"When I win the FA Cup, it will be great when I look back after my career."

Podolski added: "We have a lot of players with confidence, who have played a lot of games

"We go there on the pitch and we play our game and when we play like the last five (Premier League) games, we will win the match.

"When you play week after week you become strong and I feel good.

"I think I have played very well in these last matches, so I feel good and I want to finish the season with the FA Cup."

Meanwhile, 20 years to the week since lifting the FA Cup as captain of Manchester United, memories of that illustrious day still burn as intensely as ever for Hull boss Steve Bruce.

In an illustrious playing career which also yielded three Premier League titles and European Cup Winners' Cup and Super Cup honours, Bruce admits his three FA Cup winners' medals – the latter as a non-playing squad member in 1996 – have an extra-special place.

Preparing to head back to the Wembley showpiece for the first time as a manager, Bruce has been stressing the unique nature of the occasion to his Tigers players this week as they aim to add to the canon of famous FA Cup upsets.

Bruce said: "We must be rank outsiders, but that's the beauty of the FA Cup. Manchester City were huge favourites last year but Wigan came up and won the thing and that's why, for me, it's the greatest competition.

"For a club like ours to take on the mighty Arsenal has a fantastic ring to it. The club has never been there in its history, so it's a wonderful achievement. But you've got to try to grasp the occasion and enjoy it, because if you're not careful it just goes past you."

Bruce recalled: "My first final was in 1990 and it was the showpiece, the pinnacle of the season. There was a clamour of it and I'm reminded of the intensity and of the attention.

"It was over in a blur. Not many of them are married but I told the players it's a bit like your wedding day – before you know it you're married, and before you know it, the FA Cup final's gone.

"The memories of the FA Cup are the ones you cherish when you've finished your playing career."

For Bruce, the poor end-of-season run which followed the tumultuous 5-3 semi-final win over Sheffield United was more than mere coincidence.

"We try but we can't keep it normal – you can tell that," Bruce added.

"You can't put a lid on it. They're playing in arguably the biggest game of their career and that's what you play football for. All they've thought about for four weeks is the FA Cup final.

"When you play for your youth team or your district team you want to do one thing – play in the FA Cup final. There's a spring in their step and so there should be.

"Everybody enjoys a shock and, if you're not an Arsenal fan, I'm sure the rest of the world will be rooting for Hull.

"The reality is it's a one-off, and it's a place where heroes are made. Who can be that hero and go and win us the FA Cup?"

Belfast Telegraph


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