Wenger's cup spirit lives on
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger insists winning the FA Cup remains as much of a passionate dream now as it did when he watched his first Wembley final on black and white television as a schoolboy in Alsace.
The Gunners tackle holders Wigan, now in the Sky Bet Championship, on Saturday afternoon looking to stay on course for a first trophy since Patrick Vieira lifted the FA Cup at the Millennium Stadium in 2005.
Little did Wenger know that almost a decade would have passed without being able to deliver more silverware as first Chelsea and then Manchester City shifted the balance of power in the English game.
There are, of course, two more matches to be won before Wenger would be able to get his hands on the famous old trophy for remarkable fifth time.
Regardless of that, for Wenger, the world's oldest knock-out competition will never lose it's own sense of magic.
"It was a dream when I was a kid to watch the FA Cup. It was one of the competitions you could watch in black and white on television," said the 64-year-old.
"I don't remember the two teams (who played in the first one I watched), but what stays in my memory is exactly the place where I sat at school, because we had to pay one Franc to watch.
"What struck me at the time was the ball was white and the pitch was perfect, absolutely immaculate, because I played in a village where the pitch was a disaster.
"The players had their hair well combed, and the managers were relaxed at that time - they joked together on the bench."
Wenger added: "If you are in the FA Cup everyone can dream of winning it at the start of the season, while the (Premier League) championship - only seven clubs can dream of winning it.
"Last year Wigan won the FA Cup this year you have Sheffield United in the semi-final and that kind of dream open to everybody makes the competition special.
"In the championship you can talk and talk, but we know the biggest budget will win it; that open dream (of the FA Cup) is what makes this competition special in football.
"In basketball if you play against a team from Division Two, there is absolutely no chance unless you give them 30 points, only in our sport can create that excitement because it is uncertain."
Arsenal have seen their Premier League title hopes all but evaporate following a disappointing run of form this year, with the 3-0 defeat at Everton last weekend now seeing them locked in a battle to finish within the top four.
Wenger knows full well how important success in the cup is for his club.
"The Championship was vital for us with survival at the top until now and it was the minimal requirement at the start of the season, but don't imagine I sacrifice every day of my life not to win a trophy. Everybody fights for that," he said.
"We are back at Wembley and it is great.
"It is an important competition. You know we will not fight for the championship any more so it is the only competition (to realistically go for)."
Wenger has yet to sign the offer of a contract extension past the summer, and continues to avoid direct questioning on his future.
Asked if his decision would be decided by results between now and May 17, the Arsenal boss said: "None. I don't want to talk about that (contract) today."
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