Perfect 10: Emirates FA Cup classics

Parlour and Ljungberg

By Colin Benson

Ahead of Friday night’s Emirates FA Cup fourth-round clash with Manchester United, we’ve dipped into our archives to re-live some of our most important ties in the competition.

This feature first appeared in the Arsenal Magazine back in 2005.

10) Arsenal 11-1 Darwen

FA Cup third round 

January 9, 1932

This walkover kicked off our run to the final, which we eventually lost 2-1 to Newcastle United thanks to the infamous ‘over-the-line’ controversy that led to the Geordies’ Wembley winner, after Bob John had given us the lead.

We were at our zenith and Darwen, who had lost their Football League status in 1899, were now a Lancashire Combination side and clearly no match for us 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 our record FA Cup victory - which still stands today.

Team: Moss, Parker, Hapgood, Jones, Roberts, John, Hulme, Jack, Lambert, James, Bastin.

Arsenal v Darwen

9) Arsenal 2-1 Sheffield Wednesday (AET)

FA Cup final (replay)

May 20, 1993

This was hardly a showpiece final but Andy Linighan’s headed winner, with less than a minute of stoppage time left 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 our roll of honour as we became 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. His 30th goal of the season prompting the familiar chorus of ‘Ian Wright-Wright-Wright’ around the ground.

Waddle levelled the score on 66 minutes with a deflected volley and as weariness crept into aching limbs chance at both ends generated excitement. Into that final last minute of extra-time stoppage-time Paul Merson swung over the perfect corner from the left and Linighan, who had 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.

Team: Seaman, Dixon, Winterburn, Davis, Linighan, Adams, Jensen, Wright (O’Leary), Smith, Merson, Campbell.

8) Arsenal 2-0 Liverpool

FA Cup final

April 29, 1950

We 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 our captain was one of the most respected players in the game.

Our 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’s skill and ability 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-wing.

Team: Swindin, Scott, Barnes, Forbes, L Compton, Mercer, Cox, Logie, Goring, Lewis, D Compton.

7) Arsenal 1-0 Sheffield United

FA Cup final

April 25, 1936

This 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 our crossbar.

With still no score as the game simmered into the final 15 minutes Bastin gathered a clearance, beat Hooper and found Ted Drake in the middle with a perfectly-weighted pass. Now Drake was far from fit it being a gamble to play him as he was not recovered from a cartilage operation. It was said that his left knee was swathed in the biggest bandage ever seen at Wembley.

Nonetheless, gathering the pass he side-stepped Sheffield captain Tom Johnson to create space and hammer a left-footed thunderbolt leaving United goalkeeper Smith prostrate on the ground as the ball whistled into the net!

It was a brilliant moment for Drake and Arsenal though he collapsed in agony, couching on hands and knees, unable to stand because of the pain.

Team: Wilson, Male, Hapgood, Crayson, Roberts, Copping, Hulme, Bowden, Drake, James, Bastin.

Arsenal 1936 FA Cup final

6) Newcastle United 1-0 Arsenal

FA Cup final

May 3, 1952

It might seem strange including a defeat in this selection but at the time this game was headlined as ‘ARSENAL’S FINEST HOUR.’

For a quarter of a century we had established themselves as the most famous club in the world but it is the English way to knock success and at Wembley this 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 encouraged, he waved his arms about. Ran, tackled, 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.

Arsenal v Newcastle 1952

5) Arsenal 3-2 Manchester United

FA Cup final

May 12, 1979

The ‘five-minute final’ was pretty routine until the 85th minute. We were leading 2-0 through Talbot and Stapleton and United fans were already streaming out of Wembley. 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 Sammy Mcllroy delivered a sucker-punch easing through a dazed defence to equalise.

Whose cup was it now then? Certainly United had the momentum but as we scraped ourselves off the canvas to battle on instinct, the ball fell at the feet of the master – Liam Brady.

The Irish legend had fashioned both our goals, so could he muster up another moment of magic?

Brady carried the ball and drawing red shirts to him slipped it out to Graham Rix on the left. ‘Rixy’ fired in a low cross and there was Alan Sunderland sliding it at the far post to knock it in!

Team: Jennings, Rice, Nelson, Talbot, O’Leary, Young, Brady, Sunderland, Stapleton, Price (Walford), Rix.

4) Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool

FA Cup final

May 8, 1971

The ‘double’ in 1970/71 was a triumph for determination and teamwork. The Championship had fittingly been won at Tottenham on the last day of the League season and now Liverpool stood between us and ultimate glory.

It was 0-0 as referee Birkenshaw blew his whistle to start extra-time Heighway spotting a gap to shoot Liverpool into a 91st minute lead. It seemed the dream would evaporate in the Wembley melting-pot but we hit back immediately.

A ball into the crowded centre of the field was pushed forward by Eddie Kelly for man of the match George Graham, whose switch from striker to midfield had been one of the key moves that had transformed Arsenal’s season. ‘Stroller’ slipped between Smith and Hughes to seemingly flick it past Clemence.

TV later showed George didn’t make contact with the ball and Kelly became the only substitute to score in a cup final.

With nine minutes to go John Radford laid the ball to Charlie George who from 20 yeards crashed in a shot that 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 Town

FA Cup final

April 26, 1930

This was very much Herbert Chapman’s final; a clash between the two clubs he had fashioned on strong defence and a ‘WM’ formation and inspired to greatness. But on the day a little genius in long baggy shorts stole the honours, Alex James not only scoring a rare goal but setting up the second.

Even the deafening roar overhead of the German airship Graf Zeppelin couldn’t faze us, as our forward line was possibly one of the greatest ever with wingers Bastin and Hulme forming the spearhead of our 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 that James whacked into the corner of the net. 

Huddersfield bombarded our 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.

We had won our first major trophy.

Team: Preedy, Parker, Hapgood, Baker, Seddon, John, Hulme, Jack, Lambert, James, Bastin.

2) Arsenal 2-0 Chelsea

FA Cup final

May 4, 2002

We wrapped up the first leg of yet another incredible ‘double’ when we 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 out. The Blues backed off Ray who advanced before firing into the top right corner from 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 to 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 (Keown 90), Parlour, Vieira, Ljungberg, Bergkamp (Edu 71), Henry (Kanu 80).

1) Arsenal 2-2 Stoke City 

FA Cup semi-final

March 27, 1971

Stoke had thrashed us 5-0 six months earlier and at the interval here led 2-0 - and seemed on their way to Wembley.

In our dressing room people were breathing fire, screaming and yelling that they could still do it, but the belief was almost shattered on the re-start when John Mahoney broke clear – surely it must be 3-0?

Bob Wilson, the best goalkeeper in the business on one-to-ones, rushed out to block. “It was the most crucial save of my career,” says Bob. “We went straight to the other end and Peter Storey scored with a lovely volley.” 

We really got it together but could not get the better of Gordon Banks in a thrilling half. Into the last minute of the game and we forced a corner. The ball was whipped in and Frank McLintock’s header was handled by Mahoney.

The tension was unbearable as Peter Storey spotted the ball. Could he outsmart England’s best goalkeeper? The adrenalin was surging as Peter addressed the ball; Banks put all his weight on his right foot anticipating a shot that side but Storey fired just two yards to his left. Had he kept his balance Banks could have stopped it.

Stoke were completely deflated and we beat them comfortably 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 (Sammels), Radford, Kennedy, George.

Arsenal 2-2 Stoke - 1971 semi-final
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