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Hull hurdle awaits Arsenal
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 17 - 05 - 2014

LONDON — Arsenal has a gilt-edged opportunity to end its increasingly burdensome nine-year trophy drought Saturday when the underachieving English giant meets Hull City in the FA Cup final at Wembley.
Not since 2005, and an FA Cup final success on penalties against Manchester United in Cardiff, has Arsenal won a piece of silverware, and the frustration has become more pronounced with each passing season.
Portsmouth, Birmingham City, Swansea City and Wigan Athletic are among the teams to have tasted cup glory since Arsenal last won something, while United and Chelsea have amassed 25 trophies between them in that period.
Consistent qualification for the Champions League has kept Arsenal among the European elite, but the achievements of manager Arsene Wenger's 17-year tenure risk being undermined if the rot does not stop soon. Another disappointment against Hull would also leave the 64-year-old Frenchman in a delicate position ahead of negotiations to extend his contract, which is due to expire at the end of the season.
Hull, which has never previously reached an FA Cup final and finished 16th in the Premier League, appears ideal cannon fodder, but Arsenal has learnt from bitter experience not to underestimate supposedly weaker opponents.
It lost to Birmingham in the 2011 League Cup final, after an 89th-minute mix-up between goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny and Laurent Koscielny gifted their adversaries victory, and needed penalties to see off Wigan in this season's FA Cup semifinals.
Wenger admitted that his players succumbed to “nerves” against second-tier Wigan, which was the defending champion, but believes that it should take heart from the manner of its victory.
“I don't believe we need any warning. We know that a final is a final, that Hull is a Premier League team. They can pass the ball, they can create chances.
“It's just down to us to perform well on the day of the game. We just want to focus on that.”
While victory would see Arsenal equal United's overall record of 11 FA Cup wins, Hull's trophy cabinet is completely devoid of major honors.
Based in Kingston-upon-Hull on England's northeast coast, which is more commonly associated with the sport of rugby league, the 110-year-old club is looking to cap a remarkable recovery from the brink of obscurity.
Having played in the English fourth tier as recently as 2004, Hull went close to bankruptcy after being relegated from the Premier League in 2010, only to be saved by Egypt-born local businessman Assem Allam.
His backing enabled Hull to return to the Premier League, but he sparked anger this season by attempting to change the club's name to ‘Hull City Tigers' in an attempt to make it more marketable.
An ill-tempered stand-off with supporters ensued, but his plans were rejected by the Football Association and it is therefore as plain old Hull City that the club will approach the biggest game in their history.
New trophy for FA Cup
The winning captain in Saturday's FA Cup final between Arsenal and Hull City at Wembley Stadium will be presented with a brand new trophy, the Football Association revealed Friday.
A new version of the famous trophy, awarded to the winners of the world's oldest knockout competition, has been made by silversmiths Thomas Lyte of London. The trophy has been replaced only twice before, in 1911 and 1992. The new model is an exact replica of the 1911 version.
“This is an historic moment in the proud 143-year history of the FA Cup,” said FA general secretary Alex Horne in a press release. The 1992 trophy is due to remain in the FA's possession at Wembley.
Bayern-Dortmund final today
Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund will meet in a fitting German Cup final Saturday.
Germany's top two sides for the last three seasons meet for the end-of-season title in Berlin's Olympic Stadium for the second time in three years.
Bayern, which defeated Stuttgart in last year's final, is aiming to avenge its humiliating 5-2 loss to Dortmund in the 2012 final and complete the league and cup double in Pep Guardiola's first season in charge.
But Dortmund, which finished runner-up in the Bundesliga and — like Bayern — was knocked out of the Champions League by Real Madrid, is the domestic rival Bayern fears the most.
Thomas Mueller admits Bayern Munich is aiming to maintain its status as Germany's top side when the Bavarian giants clash with Dortmund.
“This is also about supremacy in Germany, it's about showing our rivals,” said Germany star Mueller as Bayern prepare to play Dortmund for the fourth and final time this season with Borussia leading the current ‘Der Klassiker' series two wins to Munich's one.
Mueller insists Bayern start as favorite at Berlin's Olympic Stadium, but after Borussia has won eight of its final 10 matches this season, “the current trend (of results) has brought Dortmund a step closer to us.”
“We can't allow ourselves to give away reckless turnovers. If we do, Dortmund will be just waiting to counter-attack us.”
Bayern is bidding to win the domestic double for the tenth time, having already secured the Bundesliga title in March with a record seven games to spare.
In contrast, Dortmund is chasing their fourth cup final victory having finished its league campaign second to its Bavarian rival in the table.
There are plenty of sub-plots to the final, not least Bayern's Germany star Mario Goetze up against his former club having been raised in Dortmund.
“It is definitely something special and emotional,” admitted the 21-year-old, who scored the opening goal in Bayern's 3-0 win in Dortmund on his first return to Borussia's Westfalenstadion in November. — Agencies


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