LONDON, May 17: Arsenal’s record signing Mesut Ozil believes that victory over Hull City in Saturday’s FA Cup final would provide a springboard to further success for the silverware-starved club.
Arsene Wenger’s side have not won a trophy since their last FA Cup final appearance in 2005, when they beat Manchester United on penalties in Cardiff, and have come to be seen as English football’s nearly men.
Since then, United and Chelsea have won 25 trophies between them, while Portsmouth, Birmingham City, Swansea City and Wigan Athletic are among the teams to have tasted cup glory while Arsenal have gone without.
Ozil has himself picked up five trophies during that period, but the £42.5 million ($71.3 million, 52 million euros) former Real Madrid playmaker sees no reason why he cannot win more with Arsenal.
“We are in the final and we want to take this silverware now. I am convinced we will achieve that,” said the Germany international, whose side have not left London once during this season’s competition.
“We can win titles with this squad. This is very important for the fans as well, because they have been waiting for so long.
“I am very proud of the team. We qualified for the Champions League and we are in the FA Cup final. If we can win the cup, then it will be a great season.
“However, it will be a tough game because Hull fights till the end. Nowhere else other than in England are there so many teams who never give up.”
Ozil missed the penalty shoot-out success over holders Wigan in the semi-finals due to a hamstring injury, but he is now fit and will be expected to line up against Hull when Arsenal return to Wembley Stadium.
Hull finished 16th in the Premier League this season and have never played in an FA Cup final before, but Arsenal have learnt from bitter experience not to underestimate supposedly weaker opponents.
They were eight minutes away from losing to Wigan in the last four and suffered a traumatic experience in their last domestic final, losing 2-1 to Birmingham in the deciding match of the 2010-11 League Cup.
While victory would see Arsenal equal United’s overall record of 11 FA Cup wins, Hull’s trophy cabinet is completely devoid of major honours.
Based in Kingston-upon-Hull on England’s northeast coast, which is more commonly associated with the sport of rugby league, the 110-year-old club are looking to cap a remarkable recovery from the brink of obscurity.
Having played in the English fourth tier as recently as 2004, Hull went close to bankruptcy after being relegated from the Premier League in 2010, only to be saved by Egyptian-born local businessman Assem Allam.
His backing enabled Hull to return to the Premier League, but he sparked anger this season by attempting to change the club’s name to ‘Hull City Tigers’ in an attempt to make them more marketable.
An ill-tempered stand-off with supporters ensued, but his plans were rejected by the Football Association and it is therefore as plain old Hull City that the club will approach the biggest game in their history.
“Of course we’re rank outsiders. But the beauty of the competition is exactly what it is on Saturday,” said Hull manager Steve Bruce, who won two FA Cups as a player with Manchester United.
“It’s the mighty Arsenal with all their history, tradition and huge support against the smaller club. And the attraction is the ability of the smaller club to turn them over.”
Hull, who are already assured of a place in the Europa League, will be without cup-tied strikers Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long, while centre-back James Chester seems certain to miss out with a hamstring problem.
Winger Robbie Brady (groin) could feature, though, and goalkeeper Allan McGregor is also in contention despite sustaining broken ribs, kidney damage and internal bleeding during a game at West Ham United seven weeks ago.
Arsenal will hand late fitness tests to midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (groin) and club captain Thomas Vermaelen (knee).
Jack Wilshere is in line to play after two months out with a fractured foot, while Wenger is expected to persevere with second-choice goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, who has stood in for Wojciech Szczesny in the cups this season.