Arsenal: the most successful team in the FA Cup of all time

By Tony Attwood

This weekend Arsenal become the most successful team ever in the history of the FA Cup – and they will retain that crown no matter what happens on Sunday in the semi-final.

After the conclusion of the FA Cup in 2016 the table for the number of appearances by the most successful clubs in the final read

Club Wins First final won Last final won Runners-up Total final appearances
Arsenal 12 1930 2015 7 19
Manchester Utd 12 1909 2016 7 19
Tottenham  8 1901 1991 1 9
Liverpool 7 1965 2006 7 14
Chelsea 7 1970 2012 4 11
Aston Villa 7 1887 1957 4 11
Newcastle Utd 6 1910 1955 7 13
Blackburn  6 1884 1928 2 8
Everton 5 1906 1995 8 13
Manchester City 5 1904 2011 5 10

The table shows Arsenal and Manchester United neck and neck, each with exactly the same results at the top of the list – 12 wins and 7 runners’ up positions.   Although Manchester City (who of course we play on Sunday) got their first victory in the final long before Arsenal, then have only managed five cup triumphs, and been runners’ up five times.

Of the clubs in the table Arsenal and Man U are the teams who have won the cup most recently.  Only five of the ten clubs listed above have actually won the trophy in the current century, including of course the four in the semi-finals this season.

Which brings me to this weekend’s game.

Here is a list of teams according to their appearances in the semis.

In this table Arsenal retain their place at the top, with once more (and rather curiously) exactly the same record as Manchester United.  Manchester City however slip down to 16th.

Pos Team Appearances Won Lost Success %
1 Arsenal 28 19 9 68%
2 Manchester United 28 19 9 68%
3 Everton 26 13 13 50%
4 Liverpool 24 14 10 58%
5 Aston Villa 21 11 10 52%
6 Chelsea 21 11 10 52%
7 West Bromwich Albion 20 10 10 50%
8 Tottenham Hotspur 19 9 10 47%
9 Blackburn Rovers 18 8 10 44%
10 Newcastle United 17 13 4 76%
11 Sheffield Wednesday 16 6 10 37%
12 Bolton Wanderers 14 7 7 50%
13 Sheffield United 14 6 8 43%
14 Wolverhampton Wanderers 14 8 6 57%
15 Derby County 13 4 9 31%
16 Manchester City 12 10 2 83%

Tottenham are the highest placed team that have lost more semi-finals than they have won.  Manchester City are the most successful team in terms of success in the semi-final having lost only two.

Of course what these tables mean, as I said at the start, is that no matter what happens, with Man U not being in the semi-finals, Arsenal have now once again become the most successful club in the FA Cup, by virtue of having reached one more semi-final.

Arsenal’s first experience of the semi-finals came in the early 20th century when for two years running Woolwich Arsenal lost at the penultimate stage.   In 1906 it was a 2-0 defeat to Newcastle at the Victoria Ground, Stoke, and then in the following year a 3-1 defeat to The Wednesday at St Andrew’s, Birmingham.

After that there was a long period of modest achievement on all fronts, and it was not until we’d moved to Highbury and brought in Herbert Chapman that things started to improve.

In 1927 Arsenal beat Southampton 2-1 at Stamford Bridge to get to their first ever final – which was then lost to Cardiff City.   The following season Arsenal lost in the semi-final 1-0 to Blackburn at Leicester’s old ground, Filbert Street.

In 1929 we were out in the quarter finals, but then finally, in 1930, Herbert Chapman led the team out at Wembley for the second time against his old club – and at that stage the best club in the country, Huddersfield Town, and his side won 2-0.

Arsenal had their first ever major trophy, and it was the catalyst to the most extraordinary period in Arsenal’s history.  You can read the details of Arsenal in the cup that season in Life in 1930 and winning the first major trophy – part of our complete history of Arsenal in the 1930s.

From that point on, Arsenal went on an amazing run of six successive semi-final wins – the next semi-final that we lost was not until 1973 – a 2-1 defeat to Sunderland at Hillsborough.

The most successful period for Arsenal in the FA Cup was from 1998 to 2005, with seven semi-final appearances in eight years, with five of the seven being won, to take us into the FA Cup Final.

Semi-finals however have not always been totally popular matches: I remember the 2005 semi-final against Blackburn and looking up at vast swathes of empty spaces on the side of the Millennium Stadium given over to Blackburn, who seemingly just couldn’t excite their fans to attend the game.  I reckon they had only sold about half their ticket allocation, but amazingly the authorities refused to divide that section of the ground and give part of it back to Arsenal.

Arsenal tickets, as for all games, can be a bit harder to get but there are usually some available and Football TicketPad always has the latest information.

If you are going to Wembley for the first time however, do remember that most of the pubs charge you to go in.  That money is not then put towards the cost of a drink – which is generally far higher than normal.  It is an outrageous entrance fee to go in a pub that is, what shall I say, at the lower end of the spectrum.

Oh yes, and at the final two years ago, when I had the temerity to ask for a red wine, I was looked at with astonishment and told that they only had white.   Obviously the sophistication of red wine hadn’t quite got to the National Stadium.  But then, it is soon to be the home of Tottenham.

The Arsenal History Society – an index to our series.


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