'Arsenal have the best fans in England'

In the build-up to Arsenal’s FA Cup final against Aston Villa on Saturday, we pulled Arsene Wenger’s programme notes from our archives.

This piece first appeared in the Arsenal v Everton programme after the Gunners had secured another memorable double by beating Manchester United in May 2002.


The 2001/02 ‘double’ was an even greater achievement because we were frustrated at the end of the previous season, and we showed great character to bounce back.

Also I think it was more difficult to win the F.A. Cup than 1998 because we played bigger teams. And also the overall record season is even stronger than four years ago.

Not only did we win the championship - we won it in style. To win 14 games away from home, and draw the other five is immense and I think that will be a record for a long, long time.

Freddie Ljungberg  scores in the 2002 FA Cup Final

Freddie Ljungberg scores in the 2002 FA Cup Final

In addition we were seven points clear before the final game of the season, we had won 12 games on the bounce, and eight away games in a row. That is a mark of greatness and I think these players have become immortal for the club.

We also scored in every game, which shows we always approach matches in an attacking way. Maybe for a while at the beginning of the season we were not cautious enough defensively, and we improved and changed that.

We did not concede a goal from open play for the last 15 and half hours of football. That is amazing and we managed it without losing our goalscoring record.

I have the greatest respect for championship winners, to go out there each week and keep winning shows great character. The team not only showed exceptional talent but also something more - what the players add themselves.

At important moments of the season, when we had our backs to the wall, whether psychologically or because we had players injured, the squad responded.

Of course we had outstanding individual quality but that is not enough. You need that ambition and determination.

It was tricky to win the ‘double’ the other way round, with the FA Cup final first. It made it hard because if we hadn’t won the cup, then there would have been huge pressure on us to get something against Manchester United.

I think it was symbolic to go out to Manchester United, to say ‘yes we can do it there’ and then go out and prove it. It’s tremendous the way we did it by keeping our discipline and our nerve. There was a lot of provocation but we kept our concentration.

We were highly motivated to win trophies, and real winners want to come back and win again.

I will say to the players, ‘are you ready for the challenge, are you ready to defend the trophies, are you ready to dominate English football, are you ready to make a step closer in the Champions League?’ And I think they will be.

The last time we defended trophies, in 1999, we were just a couple of games from another ‘double’, which would have made it three in five years.

It was a long, hard season for all the players, and I believe they enjoyed themselves.

The support was tremendous all season and the away support especially has played a big part in our success.

I would like to personally thank you all, you are certainly the best supporters in England.

Arsène Wenger with the FA Cup in 2002


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