Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal take on Aston Villa in Saturday’s FA Cup Final, vying for a 12th FA Cup trophy, which would cement their status as the most successful club in FA Cup history. We look back at an Arsenal icon, who enjoyed an illustrious history against Saturday’s opponents.
Ted Drake is unquestionably an Arsenal legend. Drake enjoyed an 11-year stay at Highbury, from 1934-45. The striker made 184 appearances and netted 139 goals, which is an extremely impressive strike-rate. His most profitable campaign came in his debut season in 1934, where he amassed a tremendous 42 goals to help Arsenal claim the league title. However, it was the following season that really established his legacy in Nort -London, after he produced an astonishing individual performance against Saturday’s opponents.
The Gunners travelled to Villa Park on Saturday 14th December 1935 and recorded an emphatic 7-1 victory. Drake was ironically carrying a knee injury at the time but, due to the absence of Alex James, Drake was forced to play through the pain. However, there were little signs of injury as Drake scored all seven Arsenal goals. He was extremely unfortunate not to secure an eighth goal, as a fierce shot that rattled the crossbar appeared to cross the line, although it was not given by the referee.
It was an incredible individual display which unsurprisingly re-wrote the record books. This remains a top-flight record to this day, whilst it was also a record for any division at the time, until it was remarkably broken just 12 days later by Bunny Bell, who played for Tranmere Rovers. Drake’s seven goal haul remains an Arsenal record and is one of many memorable moments from this fixture over the last century.
Drake’s goal scoring pedigree was unquestionable. He topped the scoring charts in his five full seasons at the club and, but for the outbreak of the Second World War, would potentially have enjoyed even greater success in North London. His pace, power and clinical nature contributed to his tremendous record at Arsenal and he will forever be remembered as a Gunners legend.
Whilst nobody will likely replicate Drake’s heroic at Wembley this Saturday, Arsenal will be hoping that Olivier Giroud recaptures his form after enduring somewhat of a barren spell recently. Giroud has failed to score in his last eight matches in all competitions, which is his longest drought since arriving at the Emirates in 2012.
Wenger has a major selection dilemma after Theo Walcott’s stunning hat-trick against West Bromwich Albion. Both offer threats but in extremely contrasting ways; Giroud’s hold up play and intelligent movement brings the Gunners' midfield into play, however Walcott’s electric pace may be preferred against Villa’s pedestrian back-four. Despite this, Giroud is expected to lead the line, the French international scoring in Arsenal’s 5-0 victory over Villa in February, during the latter stages of Paul Lambert’s reign as manager, therefore Walcott could be deployed on the flanks in partnership with Alexis Sanchez.
Villa’s most potent threat is posed by the impressive Belgian forward Christian Benteke, who has enjoyed a remarkable renaissance under Tim Sherwood, scoring 12 goals in 12 games. The Villa forward has great pace, strength and is a deadly finisher. If the Midlands side are to secure victory on Saturday, he will surely have to fire. Therefore, Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny have a major responsibility to nullify his threat. It’s set to be an enthralling battle between two sides who have a rich history in this competition. Ironically, an Arsenal victory will move Arsène Wenger level with former Villa great, George Ramsey, in having won six FA Cup trophies as a manager. The Gunners will be absolutely desperate to retain their trophy at the home of football.