Wenger was a contrast in moods in his post-match media briefing, heaping praise on his players while clearly bristling at his treatment from a section of Arsenal’s support this season – with protest marches before matches, and banners calling for him to leave seen both inside and outside Emirates Stadium.
The man who has now brought a seventh FA Cup win of his tenure – as well as three Premier League titles, including two domestic Doubles – clearly believes he should have been afforded more faith, respect and support given his work and commitment.
It is a fanciful notion that, as he said, supporters should simply support once matches start but he has clearly been wounded by the discontent aimed in his direction this season.
Wenger confirmed his future would be clarified this week, with the smart money on an extension of his stay but still an air of uncertainty after a triumph that was fully deserved as Arsenal produced a magnificent display to overpower the Premier League champions.
He insisted he would never accept the “very hostile” environment Arsenal have faced at home this season, and there was a lingering sense that even if he stays, there will be something about his relationship with some supporters that will never quite be the same again.
Wenger was right to assert that an Arsenal career of more than 20 years, and effectively the immediate future of the club, should not come down to one game – but there is no escaping the significance of this FA Cup final win.
Had Arsenal lost, and lost heavily as many expected, the mood could have been so dark that even Wenger’s most fervent supporters might have wavered after failure to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in two decades.
Instead, this was a win and a performance that demonstrated Wenger can still win major trophies, can still produce a gameplan to beat the best in the Premier League, and can still provide some sort of answer to those who believe he is the man who changed the face of English football but is reluctant to change himself.
When Arsenal’s board meet on Tuesday, he can produce the FA Cup as tangible evidence to strengthen his hand in what he says will be a joint discussion about whether he and the club’s decision-makers believe he is the man to take the club forward.
What Arsenal’s board must decide is whether they can find anyone who is more likely to be successful than Wenger. And he may have to decide whether he can accept certain structural changes as Arsenal, as they have to do, look ahead to the post-Wenger years.
The joyous scenes at the final whistle, with Wenger arms aloft in triumph in front of Arsenal’s ecstatic support, were a far cry from the tension around Gander Green Lane in February, when there was the whiff of an FA Cup shock in the air as the Gunners took on non-league Sutton United on the back of a 5-1 Champions League humiliation at Bayern Munich.
Amid the questions, one thing is certain – this victory, and the manner in which it was achieved, with the sort of aggression, commitment and attractive attacking football that is the Wenger hallmark, at least provides a highly satisfactory basis for discussions this week.
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