You’d have to go back to 1920 and George Ramsey to find a manager with six FA Cup winners medals but in 2015, with a win coincidentally over Ramsey’s former club Aston Villa, Arsene Wenger did just that making him the most successful FA Cup manager in recent history.
Wenger’s first FA Cup triumph came in his first full season in North London and although it came as part of a league and cup double, the Gunners would be far from convincing that season in the cup.
Wenger’s first FA Cup campaign had ended in the fourth round with a 1-0 defeat at home to Leeds United but their FA Cup season in 1998 was a lot kinder, giving them a home tie with Division One side Port Vale.
Vale, however, turned out to be tougher than expected, holding the Gunners to a 0-0 draw at Highbury and taking them to extra-time in the replay 11 days later.
The 1-1 draw in extra time was settled by penalties, which Arsenal won 4-3; their only away tie came next against Middlesbrough when two first half goals from Marc Overmars and Ray Parlour cancelled out a Paul Merson consolation.
With the likes of Liverpool and holders Chelsea out in the third round and Barnsley dispatching Manchester United in the fifth round, it was looking like the draw was opening up for an easy passage through for Arsenal but they continued to make a meal of it.
A 0-0 draw at Highbury against Premier League strugglers Crystal Palace meant another replay which the Gunners won 2-1 at Selhurst Park, followed by 1-1 draw with West Ham in the sixth round.
It would take penalties again to eliminate the Hammers at Upton Park, Alex Manninger proving to be the hero in goal, ironically, all these replays aided Arsenal’s league campaign, giving them several games in hand on a faltering Manchester United.
Division One Wolves awaited Arsenal in the semi-final at Villa Park where Christopher Wreh continued his great season with the sole winner and Kenny Dalglish’s Newcastle United were beaten by counter-attacking goals from speed merchants Overmars and Nicholas Anelka at Wembley to secure Arsenal’s first double since 1971.
The next three years would be heartache for Wenger, the turn of the century’s FA Cup campaign would end very quickly with a defeat on penalties to Leicester City, whilst 1999 ended at the feet of Ryan Giggs through one of the goal’s of the 20th Century in arguably the greatest FA Cup semi-final ever.
2001 saw two late goals from Michael Owen overturn Arsenal’s narrow 1-0 lead in the first FA Cup final in Cardiff as Liverpool secured the second leg of their FA, League and UEFA Cup treble.
So in 2002, Arsenal were more determined than ever to get the FA Cup back to Highbury and again they were afforded lesser opposition in the form of Division One Watford and although the Hornets put up some fight, it wasn’t close to that of Port Vale four years earlier as Arsenal ran out 4-2 winners at Vicarage Road.
Title rivals Liverpool and Newcastle United would be their next opponents, either side of a 5-2 victory over Gillingham, Bergkamp scored the winner against Liverpool, but it would take a replay with the Geordies to settle the sixth round clash, after a 1-1 draw at St. James’ Park, the Gunners ran out 3-0 winners back at Highbury.
An unfortunate Gianluca Festa own goal settled the semi-final at Old Trafford against Middlesbrough as Arsenal travelled up to Cardiff once again, this time to face Chelsea.
Second half goals from Parlour and Freddie Ljungberg saw the first leg of Wenger’s second league and cup double secured and four days later, Arsenal won the league at Old Trafford.
The FA Cup would have to provide some consolation for a league title lost in 2003, the campaign started at Highbury again, Division Three side Oxford United were beaten by Bergkamp’s 100th goal for the club and Scott McNiven’s own goal.
Next came non-league Farnborough Town and a small piece of trivia, Arsenal played their fourth round tie technically as the away team despite the match being played at Highbury due to safety concerns regarding Farnborough’s native Cherrywood Road.
The Gunners ran out 5-1 winners, even if wearing blue at home was rather off-putting.
From the ease of lesser opposition came the tough test of title rivals, a trip to Old Trafford followed where goals from Edu and Championship winner of the season prior Sylvain Wiltord ended United’s double hopes and was the catalyst of Sir Alex Ferguson kicking a football boot that struck David Beckham on the forehead.
Arsenal then knocked out Chelsea for the third season running, although the sixth round game ended 2-2, they won comfortably 3-1 at Stamford Bridge.
Giant killing Sheffield United were Arsenal’s opponents in Manchester for the semi-finals, Neil Warnock’s side had already made the League Cup semi final that year and were pushing for promotion out of Division One.
A controversial goal from Ljungberg and a stunning save from David Seaman in his last season with the club gave Arsenal the narrow 1-0 victory and a third consecutive FA Cup final.
Robert Pires scored the only goal in the final and Arsenal became the first team to retain the cup since rivals Tottenham Hotspur in 1982.
Another semi-final defeat to Manchester United awaited the Gunners in 2004 as the Invincibles went from treble hopefuls to just league champions in the space of a week, however, they would get their revenge a year later.
Two Highbury with Championship opposition ties started their FA Cup season, a 2-1 win over Stoke City and 2-0 win over Wolves took Arsenal into the fifth round with consummate ease.
Another Championship awaited them in the next round at Highbury, Warnock’s Sheffield United yet again in another controversial clash.
Dennis Bergkamp was sent off in the first half and a late Andy Gray penalty levelled the game in the last minute, the replay at Bramall Lane ended 0-0 after extra time but the Gunners won 4-2 on penalties.
A third minute Ljungberg goal was enough to see of Bolton Wanderers and goals from Pires and a double from Robin Van Persie beat Blackburn Rovers to set up another final, their fourth in five years.
Their final with Manchester United repaired the damage of the semi-final defeats of 1999 and 2004 but was a reasonably poor game from the Gunners that they won 5-4 on penalties after a 0-0 draw.
The nine years that followed the 2005 FA Cup success saw Arsenal go their longest spell without a major trophy under Wenger, at a time when the domestic cups took a backseat to UEFA Champions League qualification and financial stability following the move to the Emirates Stadium.
In what could have been Wenger’s last year at the club, Arsenal gave the FA Cup a real go in what was a difficult run of games.
They started with a North London Derby but goals from Santi Cazorla and Tomas Rosicky fifteen minutes either side of half time ensured there’d be no humiliating loss to their neighbours Tottenham.
League One Coventry City were Arsenal’s only lesser opposition and they were beaten fairly easily 4-0.
Next it was the turn of Merseyside’s leading teams, first came Liverpool, just eight days after the Gunners’ embarrassing 5-1 defeat at Anfield in the league, however, in a classic FA Cup encounter, Arsenal narrowly won 2-1.
A month before being hammered 3-0 by Everton at Goodison Park, the Toffees went down 4-1 at the Emirates, although the tie was close until the sky fell in after Mikel Arteta’s penalty made it 2-1.
Holders Wigan Athletic made the Gunners sweat in Arsenal’s first FA Cup semi-final since 2009, Jordi Gomez put the Latics in front before Per Mertesacker equalised with eight minutes to spare, Lukasz Fabianski was the hero in penalties, denying Wigan’s first two as Arsenal booked their place in their first FA Cup final in nine years, 4-2 on spot kicks.
Nobody gave Hull City much hope but they were 2-0 up after eight minutes and it looked as if Arsenal’s trophy drought would continue but Cazorla’s free kick began a comeback and Laurent Koscielny’s equaliser forced extra time.
Man of the season Aaron Ramsey scored the winner in extra time and Arsenal finally ended their trophy jinx.
Like London buses, you wait so long for one and two come at once, Arsenal waited so long for one trophy that they won back-to-back FA Cups.
A repeat of the previous final started their campaign, goals from Mertesacker and Alexis Sanchez made it a much more comfortable evening with a 2-0 win.
Chris Houghton’s Brighton & Hove Albion made it a contest, Theo Walcott and Mesut Özil put Arsenal 2-0 up before Chris O’Grady pulled one back but Tomas Rosicky’s wonder goal settled it, even though Sam Baldock made it interesting with a goal with fifteen minutes to go.
Two goals in two minutes from Olivier Giroud ended Middlesbrough’s fifteen minutes of fame after they eliminated Manchester City in the prior round and former Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck gave his previous club an unruly homecoming when he latched onto a mistake and slotted home the winner at Old Trafford.
Championship Reading again made a real go of it in the semi-final at Wembley, forcing Arsenal to extra time before a cruel goalkeeping error from Adam Federici cost them the game and put Arsenal in another cup final.
Unlike the previous season, Aston Villa were no match for a rampageous Arsenal who had four different scorers in a 4-0 win, Walcott, Sanchez, Mertesacker and Giroud piled in on what was a disastrous cup final performance from Villa and afforded Wenger a record-equalling sixth FA Cup triumph as Arsenal boss.