Ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup final, we took a look back at 10 of the best Arsenal FA Cup ties. We all know about last season’s dramatic comeback against Hull City, but which other memorable encounters made it onto our list?
10. Arsenal 11-1 DarwenThird roundJanuary 9, 1932This walkover kicked off Arsenal’s run to the final which was eventually lost to Newcastle United 2-1 with that infamous over-the-line controversy that led to Newcastle’s Wembley winner after Bob John had given the Gunners the lead.
Arsenal were at their zenith and Darwen, who had lost their Football League status in 1899, were now a Lancashire Combination side and clearly no match for Arsenal at Highbury where Ted Drake scored four times and David Jack clinched a hat-trick. Joe Hulme and Jack Lambert added a couple each to establish Arsenal;s record FA Cup victory - which still stands today.
Team: Moss, Parker, Hapgood, Jones, Roberts, John, Hulme, Jack, Lambert, James, Bastin
9. Arsenal 2-1 Sheffield Wednesday (AET)FA Cup final (replay)May 20, 1993This was hardly a show-piece final but Andy Linighan’s headed winner, with less than a minute of stoppage time on the clock, was drama of the highest magnitude. It was a goal that spared us the first FA Cup final penalty shoot-out at Wembley and added yet another distinction to Arsenal’s roll of honour becoming the first club to win both the FA Cup and League Cup in the same season.
Wednesday were the opponents in both finals yet this unique double failed to receive the fanfares it deserved. This replay did not live up to the quality of the initial 1-1 draw but Ian Wright, shrugging off the pain of a broken toe, galloped onto Alan Smith’s precise through ball to chip goalkeeper Woods from 12 yards.
Waddle levelled the score on 66 minutes with a deflected volley and as weariness crept into aching limbs chances at both ends generated excitement. Into the final last minute of extra-time stoppage time, Paul Merson swung over the perfect corner from the left and Linighan, who had his nose broken by Bright’s elbow in the first half, rose majestically above Bright to power a thumping header through Chris Woods’ grasping hands.
The latest FA Cup final goal of all time in the longest final of all.
Team: Seaman, Dixon, Winterburn, Davis, Linighan, Adams, Jensen, Wright, Smith, Merson, Campbell
8. Arsenal 2-0 LiverpoolFA Cup finalApril 24, 1950Arsenal had reached the final without leaving London, Liverpool without leaving Lancashire, but the neutrals wanted the ageing Joe Mercer to win a cup medal at last, for the Arsenal captain was one of the most respected players in the game.
The Gunners’ half-back line of Forbes, Compton and Mercer linked defence with attack in admirable fashion and after some early jitters, Forbes had Liverpool ace Liddell in his pocket.
The decision to play 30-year-old Reg Lewis proved a winner. Lewis’ skill and balance was never in question but manager Whittaker often dropped him in favour of more workman-like individuals and it was only Mercer’s backing that had secured his Wembley place.
It took him just 17 minutes to respond to the faith put in him. Goring had drifted away on a brilliant decoy run leaving space for little Jimmie Logie to dribble through before slipping a measured pass into the space behind a square Liverpool defence. Lewis read it brilliantly, racing onto the ball and drawing goalkeeper Cyril Sidlow to beat him comprehensively.
Lewis wrapped it up in the 62nd minute following some inspired magic from Freddie Cox on the right-hand side.
Team: Swindin, Scott, Barnes, Forbes, Compton, Mercer, Cox, Logie, Goring, Lewis, Compton
7. Arsenal 1-0 Sheffield UnitedFA Cup finalApril 25, 1936The victory was more about one man’s courage than a reflection of a deserving team performance, for the Blades enjoyed the better of the game with Dodds twice heading against the Arsenal crossbar.
With still no score as the game simmered into the final 15 minutes Bastin gathered a clearance, beat Hooper and found Drake in the middle with a perfectly-weighted oblique pass.
Gathering the pass, he side stepped Sheffield captain Tom Johnson to create space and hammer a thunderbolt, leaving United goalkeeper Smith prostrate on the ground as the ball whistled into the net.
Team: Wilson, Male, Hapgood, Crayston, Roberts, Copping, Hulme, Bowden, Drake, James, Bastin
6. Newcastle United 1-0 ArsenalFA Cup finalMay 3, 1952It might seem strange to include a defeat in this section but at the time this game was dubbed, ‘Arsenal’s finest hour’.
For a quarter of the century the Gunners had established themselves as the most famous club in the world but it is the English way to knock success and at Wembley, the day the lucky Arsenal tag was replaced by wholehearted acclaim.
Right back Wally Barnes was crocked on 22 minutes and although bravely returning twice, he had to retire in the 35th minute with damaged knee ligaments.
Ten-man Arsenal put on a heroic display with Joe Mercer, at 38, sparing himself nothing. He cajoled, he encourages, he waved his arms about. He tackled, ran and passed. Lishman grazed a post with an overhead shot, Cox popped up everywhere and with 11 minutes to go his corner found Lishman, who headed onto the top of the bar.
A header from George Robledo, in off a post six minutes from time, won Newcastle the cup but their manager Stan Seymour said: “We won the cup but Arsenal won the honours.”
Team: Swindin, Barnes, Smith, Forbes, Daniel, Mercer, Cox, Logie, Holton, Lishman, Roper
5. Arsenal 3-2 Manchester United FA Cup finalMay 12, 1979The five-minute final was pretty routine until the 85th minute. Arsenal were leading 2-0 through Talbot and Stapleton, and United fans were already streaming out of Wembley. However, in the space of 115 seconds, it was 2-2.
Arsenal, seemingly lulled into a sense of victory in the baking sun, had lapsed in concentration allowing McQueen to score at full stretch. Then McIlroy delivered a sucker punch, easing through a dazed defence to equalise.
Whose cup was it now? Certainly United had the momentum but as Arsenal scraped themselves off the canvas to battle on instinct, the ball fell at the feet of the master - Liam Brady. The Irish legend had fashioned both Arsenal’s goals, but could he muster up another moment of magic?
Brady carried the ball and, drawing red shirts towards him, slipped it out to Graham Rix on the left. He fired in a low cross and there was Alan Sunderland sliding in at the far post to knock it in.
Team: Jennings, Rice, Nelson, Talbot, O’Leary, Young, Brady, Sunderland, Stapleton, Price, Rix
4. Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool FA Cup finalMay 8, 1971The double in 1970/71 was a triumph for determination and team work. The Championship had fittingly been won at Tottenham on the last day of the league season and now Liverpool stood between Arsenal and ultimate glory.
It was 0-0 as referee Birkenshaw blew his whistle to start extra-time, and Heighway spotted a gap to shoot Liverpool into a 91st-minute lead. It seemed the dream would evaporate in the Wembley melting pot but Arsenal hit back immediately.
A ball into the crowded centre of the field was pushed forward by Eddie Kelly for George Graham, who slipped between Smith and Hughes to seemingly flick past Clemence. TV replays later showed George didn’t make contact with the ball and Eddie became the only substitute to score in the final.
With nine minutes to go John Radford laid the ball to Charlie George who crashed in a 20-yard strike, which soared past Clemence’s grasping hands. How appropriate that the cup and the double had been secured by one of north London’s own.
Team: Wilson, Rice, McNab, Storey (Kelly), McLintock, Simpson, Armstrong, Graham, Radford, Kennedy, George
3. Arsenal 2-0 Huddersfield TownFA Cup finalApril 26, 1930This was very much Herbert Chapman’s final. A clash between the two clubs he had fashioned on a strong defence and the ‘WM’ formation, and inspired to greatness. But on the day a little genius in long baggy shorts stole the honours. Alex James not only scored a rare goal, but also set up the second.
Even the deafening roar overhead of the German airship Graf Zeppelin could not faze Arsenal whose forward line was possibly one of the greatest ever with winger Bastin and Hulme forming the spearhead of Arsenal’s effective pincer movement.
In the 17th minute James and Bastin executed a quick free-kick they had planned on the bus going to Wembley and, after haring down the flank, Bastin pulled back the perfect cross which James whacked into the corner of the net.
Huddersfield bombarded the Arsenal goal after the break but with seven minutes left a long clearance from James found Jack Lambert in the centre circle and he raced away to blast his shot from the edge of the box past goalkeeper Turner.
Arsenal had won their first major trophy.
Team: Preedy, Parker, Hapgood, Baker, Seddon, John, Hulme, Jack, Lambert, James, Bastin
2. Arsenal 2-0 ChelseaFA Cup finalMay 4, 2002Arsenal wrapped up the first leg of yet another incredible double when they won a somewhat uneventful final with two remarkable goals.
The goal the game was crying out for was fashioned in the 70th minute when Tony Adams played the ball into the Chelsea half for Wiltord to latch onto. The Frenchman half turned and with the outside of his right boot laid his pass to Parlour, now some 30 yards from goal. The Blues back off Ray who advanced before firing into the top right corner form 24 yards.
Cudicini made a remarkable save to thwart Henry in the 78th minute but the reprieve was short lived. Edu picked up the ball following an Adams challenge and picked out Ljungberg on his left.
Freddie charged forward down the inside-left channel past Gallas before holding his own against Lampard’s challenge and, with Henry in support, he left Petit for dead to score from 19 yards with a superb curling shot.
Team: Seaman, Lauren, Adams, Campbell, Cole, Wiltord, Parlour, Vieira, Ljungberg, Bergkamp, Henry
1. Arsenal 2-2 Stoke CityFA Cup semi-finalMarch 27, 1971Stoke had thrashed Arsenal 5-0 six months earlier and at the interval here led 2-0 and seemed on their way to Wembley. In the Arsenal dressing room people were breathing fire, screaming and yelling that they could still do it, but the belief was almost shattered on the restart she John Mahoney broke clear - surely it must be 3-0.
But Wilson, the best goalkeeper in the business on one-on-ones, rushed out to block with ‘the most crucial save’ of his career before Peter Storey went down the other end and scored with a lovely volley. Arsenal really got it together after but could not get the better of Gordon Banks in a thrilling half.
Into the last minute of the game and Arsenal forced a corner. The ball was whipped in and Frank McLintock’s header was handled by Mahoney. The tension was unbearable as Storey spotted the ball. Could he outsmart England’s best goalkeeper?
The adrenaline was surging as Peter addressed the ball. Banks put his weight on his right foot but Storey fired two yards to his left. Had he kept his balance, Banks could have stopped it.
Stoke were completely deflated and Arsenal beat them comfortably, winning 2-0 in the replay - the prelude to that wonderful double and the success that has followed.
Team: Wilson, Rice, McNab, Storey, McLintock, Simpson, Armstrong, Graham, Radford, Kennedy, George
Copyright 2023 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.