In It's an Honour, featured first in the official matchday programme, we're looking back at the seasons that have brought silverware to north London. We re-live the 2003 FA Cup win.
Arsenal had a lot to prove when they took to the field at the Millennium Stadium for the 2003 FA Cup final. Double winners the previous season, they had led the Premier League by eight points on 2 March, but a controversial ban for Sol Campbell and injury to Patrick Vieira derailed the team and handed the title to Manchester United.
Once the league was gone, the Gunners had begun to find form again, beating FA Cup final opponents Southampton 6-1 and Sunderland 4-0. This was the start of the 49-game unbeaten run that would immortalise these players, but all we knew was that they were under massive pressure to win the FA Cup.
David Seaman led the Gunners out for what was to be his final appearance for the club – and he would end it by lifting the famous old trophy as Arsenal retained the FA Cup for the first time.
Arsenal had made a fast start, creating their first chance within 60 seconds and seeing Dennis Bergkamp’s effort cleared off the line on eight minutes. It was Robert Pires who break the deadlock, firing home the rebound after Anti Niemi had parried Freddie Ljungberg’s shot.
Although the second half was cagey, both teams had chances – and the Gunners were holding on when Ashley Cole cleared James Beattie’s shot off the line in stoppage time. But they weren’t to be denied, and winning the FA Cup for the ninth time laid the foundations for a renewed assault on the Premier League the following season.
FA Cup appearances: Jeffers 6, Lauren 6, Parlour 6, Edu 5+1, Pires 5+1, Campbell 5, Keown 5, Seaman 5, Vieira 5, Wiltord 3+4, Toure 3+2, van Bronckhorst 3+2, Ljungberg 3+1, Cole 3, Henry 2+3, Bergkamp 2+2, Cygan 2, Luzhny 2, Taylor 2, Gilberto 1+2, Kanu 1, Svard 1, Upson 1, Bentley +1
FA Cup goals: Jeffers 3, Bergkamp 2, Lauren 2, Wiltord 2, Own goals 2, Campbell 1, Edu 1, Henry 1, Ljungberg 1, Pires 1
Road to Cardiff: Third round – Arsenal 2, Oxford United 0 Fourth round – Farnborough Town 1, Arsenal 5 Fifth round – Manchester United 0, Arsenal 2 Sixth round – Arsenal 2, Chelsea 2 Sixth round replay – Chelsea 1, Arsenal 3 Semi-final – Arsenal 1, Sheffield United 0
Final – May 17, 2003Att: 73,726@Millennium Stadium
Arsenal 1, Southampton 0 Pires 38
Arsenal team: Seaman, Lauren, Keown, Luzhny, Cole, Pires, Parlour, Silva, Ljungberg, Bergkamp (Wiltord 77), Henry
Also that season... At the age of 16, Wayne Rooney scored a last-minute wondergoal for Everton in a 2-1 win that ended Arsenal’s 30-match unbeaten run in the league.
And… On November 22, England won the Rugby World Cup for the first time by beating Australia 20-17 after extra time, Jonny Wilkinson famously scoring with a late drop kick.
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