ARSENE WENGER was so confident Arsenal would beat Hull City in extra-time that he took off two of his specialist penalty takers, writes Richard Sutcliffe.
The Gunners chief made the move with just 15 minutes of the additional half-an-hour to play by bringing off goalscorer Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil.
Cazorla, in particular, is a dead-ball specialist so the decision to bring both Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky on was a bold one. It paid off, too, with Aaron Ramsey netting the all-important winner to end Wenger’s nine-year wait for a trophy.
The Gunners chief said: “I didn’t want it to go to penalties. I tried desperately for it not to go to penalties because I didn’t have many players on the pitch who were specialists.
“That is why I made the changes. Cazorla is a serious penalty taker and that is why I was hesitant.
“The other problem I had was Kieran Gibbs’s hamstring. We had to wait as long as possible. I was worried, of course.
“I was worried by the decision I was making because I already had two strikers on the pitch. Jack is not a penalty taker. Rosicky isn’t a penalty taker. And Giroud had cramp.”
Wenger, out of contract this summer, indicated after the final that he would sign a new deal to remain in charge of the Gunners.
The victory over the Tigers not only ended his long barren run in terms of winning trophies, it was also the perfect retort to Jose Mourinho, who labelled the Gunners chief a “specialist in failure” earlier this season.
Wenger declined to answer a question about Arsenal having won more trophies than Chelsea in 2013-14, instead just adding: “Look, I don’t want to commit to that kind of controversy. But we try to do our best. We don’t like to talk.”
What the Arsenal manager did admit, however, was just how hard Hull pushed his side before they were able to claim a first major trophy since beating Manchester United on penalties in the 2005 Cup final at the Millennium Stadium.
He said: “It was a very long two hours. I want to win. I work seven days a week because I want to win. It is difficult.
“Unfortunately, you don’t win on command. Our job is very easy when we win things. When we don’t win, we need some strength to continue to grow.”