Arsenal performed credibly last night as they held Bayern Munich to a draw but it was not enough to turn around the damage done in the first leg.
Having been knocked out of the Champions League, the team are left to battle on domestic fronts. Arsenal are third in the league but with Chelsea seven points clear with an easy run-in, Liverpool in unstoppable form and Manchester City having the games in hand to go top, it would be no surprise if the Gunners finished fourth.
At the start of the season many Arsenal fans may have taken a fourth place finish in which they finished above of Spurs and Manchester United. Yet after a campaign in which they have topped the Premier League for much of the season, this would seem like another disappointment.
It seems likely that the only way for Arsenal to put a positive spin on this season is to win the FA Cup. To win something after so many barren years, allied to a title challenge that went into the second-half of the season, would certainly be classed as an achievement and a sign of progress.
If the FA Cup was won then the decision to show faith with Arsene Wenger at a time when many of Arsenal’s competitors have changed their manager, would prove justified. With Wenger currently in talks over a new contract, there is pressure on him to deliver something.
This is especially true in light of the FA Cup semi-final draw in which Arsenal were drawn against Championship opposition in Wigan. Last year’s winners knocked Manchester City out in the major shock of the quarter-finals and in doing so piled the pressure on Arsenal.
Wigan’s cup exploits of the past two season are hugely impressive but they don’t mean that Arsenal aren’t expected to brush them aside en-route to winning the cup, with the Betfair markets pricing them at 1.19 to reach Wembley and just 1.49 to win the trophy.
That’s despite the fact that there is still another Premier League outfit in the competition in the form of Hull. They are also huge favourites to reach the final, having been drawn against League One’s Sheffield United.
Hull have had a successful season in which they’ve so far kept themselves removed from the relegation scrap. The signings of Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore from Tottenham have given their midfield quality and Premier League experience. No one could blame the more pessimistic of Arsenal’s support for having nightmares involving the former-Spur Huddlestone scoring the winning goal in the last minute, to bring back painful memories of Nayim and Paris.
Yet it should not be forgotten that having struggled for goals in the first half of the season, Hull’s January signings Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long are both cup-tied. Without their strike duo, Arsenal have even less of an excuse if they fall short.
There is no way around it. Arsenal simply must win the FA Cup or Wenger will face another summer when major questions are asked of him.