You could not really say that Arsenal have had it all our own way in our recent appearances at Wembley Stadium. The Gunners have needed extra time in all three of the games played at the home of English football in the last couple of years and we even had to endure the tension of a penalty shoot out in the semi-final against Wigan Athletic last season.
So you might be a bit surprised to hear our German centre back Per Mertesacker in an Arsenal.com report talking about how Arsenal will be feeling good about the ground when they arrive to face Aston Villa in the FA cup final on Saturday. But I see where he is coming from.
The Gunners have really been up against it there, no more so than finding ourselves 2-0 down in last year’s final against Hull City when the long wait for a trophy looked like stretching to a full decade. But the players have always found a way to overcome the problems and emerge victorious. And the fact that the team have gotten used to playing there should help us to avoid those cup final nerves.
Mertesacker said, “We know how difficult it is to compete at Wembley. It’s different from being away or at home – you can’t compare it.
“We have a certain mental strength in this competition to come back. We’ve been successful at Wembley, we’ve done well there but not shown our best form which is weird.
“Against Championship sides and Premier League sides like Hull, it was always a tight game. You can’t compare it to a Premier League game.
“We’ve been through [a very close final] last season, so it can be an advantage. We just have to be aware that anything can happen on the day. If we turn up with a good performance at Wembley then it’s difficult to stop us.
“You can feel the excitement about Wembley with the British boys but also [because it is] the final of the FA Cup. It’s special in every country and everyone is really proud to be involved in a big football night.
“Everyone is really up for it. It’s another special occasion for us to show we are capable of winning something. But we need the right attitude to compete at that high level and we need to turn up with our best performance, maybe of the season, to grab the [trophy] again.”
Do you think that Arsenal can play this final with some freedom and fluency and produce the sort of performance that will light up the national stadium or do you expect another nail-biter?