A less than rosy start to the season
After their 2-0 loss to Chelsea last month, many were already questioning Arsenal and their ability to be strong title contenders having only taken three points from their first three games; major ground already lost on the two favourites who’ve not dropped a single point between them yet this year. Although Chelsea and Manchester City go head to head at Wheatsheaf Park five days after the FA Cup final and one way or another, points will be dropped.
As Chelsea and City proved last year, wrestling points off of them is one of the hardest - if not the hardest - task in the WSL. Arsenal will give nothing less than 100% in all of their remaining league games because they just don’t know how to do any differently but it may already be too late, the Gunners will need help from fellow WSL teams to shock the title chasers.
One of the most decorated [domestic] women’s teams in world football
Since their first piece of silverware three years after their inception – the Highfield Cup won in the 1990-91 season – the Gunners have become serial winners. The only blip in their illustrious history was in 2002 when they failed to win anything, although they did lose the Community Shield to Fulham on penalties that season. Arsenal have amassed a staggering 62 trophies, cups and winners medals across various competitions; the Reds are never far from the final let alone the podium.
In the FA Cup final alone, Arsenal have appeared 14 times and won an incredible 13 times; their only loss came in 2010 at the hands of Everton, Natasha Dowie scoring the winning goal with just one minute left in extra time. Arsenal of course, had the last laugh the next time Everton made it to the final when they were easily beaten 2-0 by the Gunners in 2014.
For years, people (notably Arsenal Ladies founder, Vic Akers) had championed hosting the Women’s FA Cup final at Wembley, instead of moving the final up and down the country. One of the most prestigious awards in English domestic football, the FA Cup final, has always been a highlight of the calendar and it deserved to be at the [English] home of football.
In 2015 the FA finally agreed that the FA Cup final should be permanently held at Wembley stadium and surprisingly Arsenal wouldn’t be there to fight to retain their cup. Although many former-Gunners were on the pitch, the team in red hadn’t made it to Wembley - they were knocked out en route by those former players in blue.
Tomorrow Arsenal will bid to wrestle the cup back from their noisy neighbours, having seen themselves dethroned as the darlings of English football. The FA Cup final is their first chance at silverware this season but it could easily be their only shot at glory.
Yes, the Continental Cup Tyres Cup is yet to fully kick off and the Gunners do boast an incredible record in the competition, having appeared in all five finals and lifting the trophy on four occasions. But there are no certainties in football, even for a team as successful as Arsenal.
The only team that can come close to the success Arsenal have enjoyed in the FA Cup is [the now defunct] Southampton side that won the it in eight of the first ten years it ran, other than the Doncaster Bells (who haven’t won the competition since the early 90s) no team has lifted the trophy more than twice. Gunners, young and old, will look at the FA Cup as their trophy, the modest silverware belongs in their bulging trophy cabinet.
Ultimately it doesn’t matter what the competition is nor who the opponents are, whether Arsenal are strong favourites or underdogs, you can never rule out the Gunners in a final, especially if that final is the only chance they have of silverware.