Three FA Cup wins in four years

FA Cup winners 2015

After nine years without a trophy, there was a serious amount of pressure on us as we arrived at Wembley for the 2014 FA Cup final against Hull City.

Arsène Wenger’s side were heavy favourites to secure their first piece of silverware since 2005 but, having experienced late heartache in the 2011 League Cup final, many wondered whether the weight of expectation would prove too much for them again.

Nerves were frayed among the red hordes in the sun-drenched stands of Wembley, and we got off to the worst possible start, conceding twice in the opening eight minutes. First, James Chester diverted Tom Huddlestone’s mis-hit shot past Lukasz Fabianski, then Curtis Davies lashed home a rebound after Alex Bruce’s header hit the post.

"The Gunners’ emphatic victory put them out on their own with a record 12 triumphs."

It could have got even worse, as Kieran Gibbs headed off the line from Bruce - but Arsenal received a lifeline when they needed it most, with Santi Cazorla bending home a stunning free-kick to halve the deficit. That settled Wenger’s side down, knowing they had plenty of time to draw level.

They did so with 19 minutes remaining, when Laurent Koscielny span sharply on to a ricochet from a corner and hooked the ball past Allan McGregor, sending a nail-biting match into extra-time.

Arsenal dominated the additional 30 minutes, with Olivier Giroud heading against the bar before the winner came three minutes into the second period.

Giroud backheeled intelligently into the path of Aaron Ramsey, who - enjoying the season of his life - finished smartly with the outside of his foot to send players and fans into ecstasy. It was the perfect way to end a stellar campaign from the Welshman.

Thankfully, the following season would be nowhere near as dramatic as the Gunners returned to Wembley to defend their trophy.

Some 379 days after that unforgettable, nerve-shredding final against Hull City, things could not have been more different as Wenger’s side were in total control against Aston Villa from the off.

So edgy on their recent visits to the national stadium, this time they were the picture of calm, but it took until five minutes before the interval to break the deadlock.

Theo Walcott was the hero, latching on to a cushioned Alexis header to slam the ball in at the near post before spinning away to celebrate with the euphoric Arsenal fans.

Better was to come after the break, with Alexis scoring the sort of 25-yard screamer that would surely have had Charlie George - the hero of 1971 - nodding in appreciation.

Per Mertesacker headed in a third from a corner as the Gunners continued their assault and Olivier Giroud added a fourth in injury time to add even more gloss to the scoreline.

The final whistle brought scenes of unconfined joy as Wenger joined George Ramsay on six FA Cup wins, while the Gunners’ emphatic victory put them out on their own with a record 12 triumphs.

Manchester United would draw level again the following season but, for 12 months, Arsenal were England’s cup kings - and what a performance they had delivered to do it.

After a quarter-final exit in 2016, we were back on the march for the FA Cup 12 months later as we returned to Wembley Stadium to face Chelsea in the final.

This time though, we were clear underdogs against a Blues side that had swept all before them to lift the Premier League title while we had finished outside the top four for the first time since the 1995/96 campaign.

But straight from the off it was clear that we were determined to finish the season on a high, as we dominated the early exchanges - and eventually our pressure told as Alexis Sanchez opened the scoring in controversial circumstances.

Chelsea complained that the Chilean had handballed on his way through to score, but the goal stood - and we continued to threaten.

Our hopes were further improved when Victor Moses was sent off for a second bookable offence in the second half, but with 14 minutes remaining Diego Costa equalised for the Blues.

It was a bitter blow, but we responded instantly as we swept down the other end, with Aaron Ramsey's diving header putting us back in front moments later.

That proved to be the final twist of an unforgettable final, sealing Wenger's place in history with seven FA Cup wins, more than any other manager.

The following season proved to be an historic one, as the club bid farewell to Wenger after almost 22 years in charge.

The Frenchman announced his decision to stand down in April 2018, leading to an outpouring of emotion for our final matches of the campaign.

His final game at Emirates Stadium, against Burnley on May 6, 2018, proved to a truly memorable occasion as the club came together to pay tribute to the man who had delivered three Premier League titles, seven FA Cups, two doubles and an Invincible season.

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