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Friday May 16, 2014 MYT 12:27:02 PM
Friday May 16, 2014 MYT 12:28:00 PM
by patrick johnston
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The pressure is all on Arsenal ahead of Saturday's FA Cup final against Hull City, but if they can end their nine-year trophy drought then good times lie ahead with Arsene Wenger at the helm, former midfielder Ray Parlour has told Reuters.
The future of the French manager has been called into question this season with the club's Premier League title challenge fizzing out once again as the wait for a first trophy since the 2005 FA Cup goes on.
The Frenchman's contract expires in the coming weeks and while he has dropped strong hints he will stay on, no confirmation of a new deal has been released, with some fans becoming restless and calling for change.
Parlour acknowledged the frustration but believed the club had made great strides this year under Wenger, who joined in 1996. Success in the Wembley showpiece would spur the manager and a core group of young players on to greater things.
"All the pressure is on Arsenal, obviously. It's a very important trophy for Arsenal," the former England midfielder said on the sidelines of the Singapore Cricket Club's soccer sixes tournament.
Parlour said Arsenal had a nucleus of good young players and getting an FA Cup win under their belt could drive them forward next season.
"And this first trophy, if they do win Saturday, the first one is always the hardest. If you can win that first one, it does give you massive confidence and belief for next season, and with the right signings, I'm sure they will be closer."
Even if the club lose the final to Hull on Saturday Parlour said it would be the wrong move to get rid of Wenger, talking up the need for stability and pointing at how the constant changing of managers at rivals Tottenham Hotspur had held them back.
However, the 41-year-old, who retired from playing after a short stint with Hull in 2007, said fourth-place finishes in the Premier League would not appease fans and players forever.
"I know the supporters sometimes get frustrated with no trophy, fourth place every single season, which, if I'm being honest, if I finished my career and they asked me what I achieved and I said I came fourth place eight times running, it's not good.
"I want to be saying I won an FA Cup, championships, so the players now are no different to me. It's not about money, it's about winning trophies."
A new striker has long been earmarked as an obvious way to increase their chances of adding to their 13 English titles, with Frenchman Olivier Giroud leading the forward line on his own for most of the campaign.
Arsenal bid for Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez last season only to have their 40 million and one pounds ($67.18 million) offer rejected by Liverpool.
Suarez went on to score 31 league goals for the Anfield club this season, driving his price up even further and leaving Parlour, who made 466 appearances for Arsenal, instead eyeing Giroud's international team mate Karim Benzema of Real Madrid.
"Suarez, I think he has probably trebled in price, and I don’t think they will ever sell him to Arsenal," he said.
"Benzema has been mentioned, he would do a good job. There is one thing with Arsenal, you always get lots of chances.
"They need a fox in the box, an Ian Wright back in the day. An Ian Wright would be perfect. We will have to see who they get but I hope its another massive signing, it would be fantastic for Arsenal."
While speculation on possible incomings continues, fullback Bacary Sagna is expected to depart following the final after failing to agree a contract extension with the club.
Parlour said the French defender's departure was "a big loss" but not in the same league as previous high-profile exits such as midfielders Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, who left in their prime for Barcelona and Manchester City in 2011.
"How old is he? 31? You don’t want 24, 25-year-olds leaving. Once you get up to 30, 31, they are always only going to give you a short contract," he said of Wenger's one-year contract policy for players over 30.
"If you look at the top young players now, they have all signed long-term contracts, (Laurent) Koscielny, (Aaron) Ramsey, (Santi) Cazorla, those are the ones you really need to tie down ... not the 30-31s who are looking for a last pay day." ($1 = 0.5954 British Pounds)
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)
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