We spoke to Arsène Wenger ahead of the Emirates FA Cup final against Chelsea for a wide-ranging interview about the competition.
The Arsenal manager discussed what it means to him, his own record in the cup and his feelings when he wakes up on the day.
Arsène you’ve already won the FA Cup six times, you’ve had some big games with the club – where does this one stand, do you think?
It’s another big one and of course it’s a final so everybody is always highly focused on that and you want to prepare your team to have a good chance to perform and win the game.
If you do win it, you’ll beat the all-time record for FA Cup wins and as you know, the FA Cup goes back more than 100 years – how much would that mean to you personally?
It means a lot to me. But I don’t think about the cup final in those terms. I just think let’s on the day perform and after the history and all that is secondary at the moment. At the time we go into the game, we want to win the game, because it means a lot to you and to the players and to the club. We just prepare for the game on the day.
In the cup final this year we face very familiar opposition in Chelsea. What sort of game are you expecting?
It’s always difficult to predict but you know that the two teams will have qualities collectively and individually. So it will be certainly down to the performance on the day. The team that can find that extra focus, that extra little bit that makes you just get on the edge to win against a big opponent. So let’s prepare the squad and our team to be at their best on the day.
Can you describe what it’s like to wake up on cup final morning, knowing you’re going to manage a team – is it nerves or excitement?
It’s a mixture! Excitement and nerves. You want to get as quickly as possible to the game and you just focus on every single detail that can help you to win the game. And knowing that once the game starts you can always win, lose or draw because that’s part of the game.
You first final was 19 years ago now in 1998, against Newcastle, how much has the ritual changed from then?
Not so much! I believe that at the time the only thing I can say at the time is unknown quantity for me, it was all new. I discovered the ritual, the preparation on the day, walking out on the pitch and all that was absolutely new. I was stunned by the tradition and how much it means in the country. Since then it’s always just an exceptional and special occasion. To get there, the pride to get your fans there, your club there and of course to achieve something special.
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