Arsene Wenger said Friday that his time as Arsenal manager could have come to an end if the Gunners had lost the 2014 FA Cup final to Hull.
Arsenal, who face the same opponents in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Saturday, found themselves 2-0 down inside eight minutes as Hull took a shock lead at Wembley two years ago.
It looked as if the north London club’s nine-year wait for a major trophy might continue but goals from Santi Cazorla and Laurent Koscielny drew Arsenal level before Aaron Ramsey scored the winner in extra-time.
For Wenger, Arsenal’s manager since 1996, the 3-2 victory was a landmark result after the Frenchman had come under increasing fire from disaffected Arsenal fans.
“I don’t know, honestly, I don’t know,” said veteran French boss Wenger when asked if he would have been sacked if Arsenal had lost.
“It was up in the air and we had to give everything to win that final. If we had lost it I don’t know.”
“It would have been a problem if we had not won. It would have been a massive disappointment for everyone, but we won.”
Wenger, who signed a new three-year extension 13 days after the victory, added: “Usually I respect my contracts and I fight for everything. I think as well to say to you that if 17 years at a club depend on one cup final, it is better you don’t go to the final.”
The FA Cup final win over Hull marked something of a key staging post for an emerging Arsenal side.
Now they are bidding to become the first side since the 19th Century to win the FA Cup three years in a row after thrashing Premier League rivals Aston Villa 4-0 in the 2015 final.
Arsenal are also just two points behind leaders Leicester as they chase their first Premier League title since 2004.
– ‘English’ Wenger –
But although it would appear to help a leading club such as Arsenal, Wenger disagrees with plans to scrap FA Cup replays amid speculation the Premier League and FA are rawing up proposals to do away with such games.
“I am now vaccinated against the FA rules. After such a long time, I have become very conservatively English,” said the 66-year-old Wenger.
“I am quite a bit nervous about changing the rules because I like them now, I believe as well it looks like we always get more money and want to play less games. That is a little bit of a contradiction.”
“I am convinced all of the clubs can compete with the number of games we have to play, so there is no real need for me to change the rules. This is the most traditional competition in England, so let’s respect it and keep it as it is.”
Arsenal face Barcelona in the first leg of their last 16 Champions League tie on Tuesday, but while Wenger may rest a couple of first-team players this weekend, he was in no doubt about the importance of beating Hull.
“For me it’s an important game,” Wenger added. “The best way to prepare for Barcelona is to beat Hull tomorrow (Saturday). The momentum is important and we have to show that mentally we are capable of winning by focusing on every single game.”