By Williams ‘Bantu’ Irubor
Arsène Wenger praised Arsenal’s players for banishing doubts about their mental strength by coming from behind to beat Manchester City at Wembley and set up an FA Cup final with Chelsea.
Things looked gloomy for Wenger’s men when Sergio Agüero fired City into the lead midway through the second half of the semi-final but Nacho Monreal equalised to take the match to extra time. Alexis Sánchez pounced in the 101st minute to score a winning goal and preserve Arsenal’s hopes of ending a fierce season with a trophy.
Wenger admitted it was a big mental test for them, and many people questioned if they could turn up on an occasion like that. He said he’s very proud of the players who showed a united, determined and playful response.
Several of Arsenal’s players said afterwards that they had been motivated, in particular, by a desire to show their faith in Wenger, who in recent months has been the subject of a sustained campaign by a large section of fans who want him to be replaced as manager of the club he has led for nearly 21 years. Despite his happiness Wenger was still not minded to say whether he would still be in charge next season.
While Wenger basked in the glow of an unexpected victory, Pep Guardiola was left to confront the reasons for significant underachievement. He was hired to guide City to new heights and given great riches to help lead the way do this but this defeat, on the back of premature elimination from the Champions League and floundering in the Premier League, means the club will end the season empty-handed. “We will improve next season, we will be strong,” said the Catalan, who has never experienced a season without silverware as a manager.