The way Arsenal began this season, it appeared the long wait for a trophy was about to come to an end. And then things began to slip.
This was not a capitulation, far from it. But with previous disappointments still fresh in their mind, some Gunners fans began to expect the inevitable.
With Chelsea and Liverpool currently above Arsene Wenger’s side in the league, and Manchester City having two games in hand over the Gunners, the fight for the Premier League title could be one bout too many this season.
Given that Arsenal’s only chance of Champions League progression is to go to the reigning champions and win emphatically this evening, the fact that they are still in the FA Cup is one that will be of significant comfort to the Arsenal faithful.
They will be taking nothing for granted when they kick off against the holders Wigan Athletic in the semi-final, not least because Uwe Rosler’s side have just gone to the Etihad Stadium and done something few sides have managed, including Arsenal.
But Wenger will also look at the sides remaining in the competition – with Hull City and Sheffield United contesting the other semi-final – and know that he will rarely have a better chance to secure some much-needed silverware.
And if they still finish the campaign empty-handed? Pundit Andy Gray told Talk Sport earlier today that if that were to happen, Wenger may lose more than just a football match, he may also lose the fans’ support.
“There will be a lot of Arsenal fans who, if they blow it, will think that’s it for Wenger,” Gray said.
“With the greatest of respect when you look at who’s left in it (they should win it)”
“There will be a lot of Arsenal fans who feel he’s not bombproof and they might put the pressure on.”
That is the problem with being a considerable favourite; you are only one shock away from suffering more than just a loss…but also the post-mortem that goes with it.
As Wigan showed last season, no one has a divine right to win the FA Cup. It is anyone’s competition. That is the beauty of it.
But Arsenal will know that this season it has to be theirs. Otherwise, should they fall short in both Europe and the Premier League, the analysis of another disappointing campaign will begin.
image: © Matt and Kim Rudge