Arsenal and the FA Cup: A look back at the Gunners' love affair with the famous trophy
Photo: Stuart MacFarlane

Arsenal and the FA Cup: A look back at the Gunners' love affair with the famous trophy

The most successful team in the competitions' history, Arsenal have had some magical moments in the FA Cup

Jordan Owusu-Adu

Last season, Arsenal won the FA Cup for the 13th time, cementing their place in the history of the 147-year-old competition. From Jack Lambert to Charlie George, from Andy Linighan to Aaron Ramsey, numerous Gunners have performed heroics in FA Cup matches, stretching back to the clubs first triumph in 1930.

As Arsenal prepare to begin the defence of the FA Cup against Nottingham Forrest on Sunday, here is a look back at some of their most famous campaigns and finals in the FA Cup.

The first of many

Arsenal’s first-ever visit to an FA Cup final came in 1927 when they were defeated 1-0 by Cardiff City, but thankfully just three years later the Gunners got a second chance to lift the trophy for the first time.

Having defeated Chelsea, West Ham, Middlesborough, Birmingham and Hull City through replays, Arsenal faced Huddersfield Town in the final, a Herbert Chapman Derby. During the previous decade, the Gunners’ manager and legend had led the Terriers to two league titles and cup success.

Thankfully for Chapman, his current side triumphed this time; a 2-0 victory thanks to goals from Alex James and Jack Lambert. This win was to be the beginning of a historic relationship between Arsenal and the oldest cup competition in the world.

Historical victory

After 1930, two more cup success’ followed in 1936 and 1950, with Sheffield United and Liverpool the opponents, respectively. Defeated by Newcastle United in 1952, the Gunners' next opportunity for a fourth win came in 1971, and with it came the chance of a piece of history.

Ten years earlier, Tottenham Hotspur had become only the third team in English football history to win the domestic double after Preston North End and Aston Villa in the 1800s. Having beaten their fierce local rivals to secure the title earlier in the week, this was the Arsenal’s first attempt at the domestic double.

Liverpool again the opponents and neither team could break the other down in 90 minutes, however extra time proved more fruitful for goals. Liverpool took the lead two minutes into the first half after Steve Heighway’s driven cross beat Gunners keeper Bob Wilson at his near post. Nine minutes later Eddie Kelly levelled the scoring, poking the ball home from six yards out.

The celebration for Arsenal’s winner has since gone down as one of the most memorable in FA Cup history. John Radford played the ball to Charlie George on the edge of the Liverpool penalty area, and George’s powerful striker beat Liverpool keeper Ray Clemence at his near post. The Arsenal forward dropped to the ground in celebration, arms and legs spread wide, before being pulled up by his jubilant team-mates. Double secured. 



Arsenal defeated Manchester United in 1979 to make it five, after a stunning game which saw them give up a two-nil with goals in the 86th and 88th minute before Alan Sunderland tucked home a back-post cross in the last minute of normal time.

The end of a long wait and Arsene's first

Like the 1970s, the 1990s was a successful decade for Arsenal in the cup. In 1993, a replay was needed beat Sheffield Wednesday, with both games extremely tight affairs. The first finished 1-1, and in the second match five days later, penalties seemed to be looming with the score again 1-1. Yet a winner was found with just a minute to go as the unknown Andy Linighan headed home a Paul Merson corner.

The 1993 final celebrated the end of fourteen year wait for a sixth cup success, and 1998 helped launch a period of domestic success. A young Arsene Wenger had only just completed his first full league campaign as Arsenal boss, securing the title by one point ahead of Manchester United, and the best way to complete the season would be to secure the clubs’ second domestic double, and that’s exactly what happened.

A strong performance at Wembley followed against Newcastle United, although not without a few scares. Goals from Marc Overmans and a young Nicholas Anelka were enough to secure an incredible first full season for the newly welcomed Le Professeur.

Cup dominance, but not for long 

Along with success’ in the previous decade, as the world welcomed the new millennium, the 2000s looked set to be Arsenal’s most successful FA Cup decade ever, with victories against Chelsea in 2002, Southampton in 2003 and Manchester United in 2005. However, no-one could’ve expected the win at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff in 2005 would be the last trophy won in nearly a decade.

That game itself was a tough watch for those supporting the North London side, as Manchester United dominated the majority of the game, however Arsenal managed to hold out for penalties. With his final kick in an Arsenal shirt, captain Patrick Vieira scored the fifth penalty, and the Gunners became the first side to win the competition via this route. 



From then on, a semi-final in 2009 was the furthest the club would reach, until 2014, when the Gunners name seemed to be written on the trophy from the Third Round.

The end of a long wait part 2

Of all the teams to be drawn against in the Third round, nothing can whet the appetite of an Arsenal fan more than a visit from Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates. The home side faced little competition from their rivals and ran out 2-0 winners. Coventry were swept away in round four, again at home, before a face-off with a Premier League rivals Liverpool in the fifth round.

In the most competitive match the Gunners had faced so far, Arsenal rode their luck, but finished the game 2-1 winners. The blue side of Merseyside were next to visit the Emirates in the Quarter-finals, and after a close first half, the Gunners turned on the style in the second and ran away 4-1 winners against Everton.

Surprisingly, the semi-final proved to be the toughest test of Arsene Wenger's men in the campaign, as Wigan Athletic could only be beaten via a penalty shootout. Polish keeper Lukas Fabinaski was the hero, saving the Latics first two attempts before Spanish maestro Santi Cazorla sent the Gunners through to their first final in nine years.

Hull City were the final hurdle. Overwhelming favourites, this was surely the game to end the wait for title number eleven. But as we all know, nothing has been plain sailing for Arsenal in recent seasons, and an extra-time winner from Aaron Ramsey was needed to overturn the Tigers stunning two-goal lead. Ramsey celebration emulated Charlie George in 1971. Nine years after the last, Arsenal had finally won the famous trophy again. 



You wait nine years for one

Since 2014, the Gunners have again become a force in the FA Cup, defeating Aston Villa in 2015 and Chelsea last season, thanks again to heroics from Aaron Ramsey. Looking forward to this weekend’s game, Arsene Wenger will be hoping this seasons’ campaign begins like the previous 20 under his guidance, with a win in the third round.

“Touch wood, let’s make that continue,” Wenger told the official Arsenal website.

“You come out of the Christmas period overloaded a little bit with the games, so it’s important to maintain focus and concentration, and to prepare well.”