Arguing the case for the defence

It is a statement that rings true throughout sport. Winning a prestigious prize is one thing, defending it is quite another.
That is very much the case in football circles, with competition across the board ensuring that success can never be guaranteed.
In a global and continental sense, no nation has toasted successive World Cup triumphs since Brazil in 1958 and 1962, while the Champions League era in Europe is yet to deliver back-to-back winners.
Narrowing the focus to England, and some six years have passed since Manchester United made it three Premier League title victories in a row – with current holders Manchester City offering a meek defence of their crown in 2014/15.

In domestic cup competitions, only United have enjoyed League Cup success in consecutive seasons since the turn of the 21st century, while Arsenal are one of just two sides – the other being Chelsea - to have achieved a similar feat over the same period of time in the FA Cup. Prior to that, you have to go back to 1981/82 to find the last successful defence – by Tottenham Hotspur – which goes some way to highlighting just how difficult it is to keep the trophy counter ticking over. Arsenal, though, have the opportunity in 2015 to join an elite group, with Arsene Wenger seeking to underline the fact that the Gunners are very much back in the habit of collecting major silverware. Last season’s FA Cup win (see above) brought to an end a nine-year drought in the red half of north London, with the monkey finally shaken from the back of a club that had underachieved – in terms of tangible success – for longer than many could have predicted.

The challenge after bucking that trend was always going to be proving that victory over Hull City was no flash in the pan and that regular additions could be made to the trophy cabinet at Emirates Stadium.
To Arsenal’s credit, they have been able to put themselves back in a familiar position 12 months on.
Extra-time may have been required to edge out plucky Championship underdogs Reading at the semi-final stage, with Adam Federici quite literally handing the Gunners a Wembley return on a plate, but getting over the line is all that matters at the business end of the season.

Wenger will now lead his side out against Aston Villa on Saturday 30th May and will be looking to add another silver lining to a campaign that has seen him both lauded and lambasted in equal measure at different stages.
FA Cup betting markets have Arsenal at 1/3 to vanquish Tim Sherwood’s Villa, sparking further champagne-popping, ticker-tape parades and open-top bus rides in North London.
If past experiences have taught us anything, though - especially when the ‘magic’ of the cup is involved - it is to expect the unexpected and to take nothing for granted.
Arsenal may know what is required of them at the home of English football, but they will also be aware that history is not on their side and that defending their crown is likely to be considerably harder than claiming it in the first place.

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