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The Wenger Years: 2002/3 – the cups

Arsenal History and Untold Arsenal on Twitter @UntoldArsenal

by Tony Attwood

In the last two articles in this series we have looked at the league campaign in 2002/3 – the frustration of being top of the league by five points and then slipping away, the awful defeat against Leeds, the wonder goal of Henry against Tottenham, and then the extraordinary significance of the 6-1 defeat of Southampton.

Now to round it all off: the cups.

In the league cup we only got one game – a 2-3 home defeat to Sunderland in November.  This was a reserve team line up with Taylor, Luzhny, Stepanovs, Tavlaridis, Svard, Pennant, Pires, Van Bronkhorts, Toure, Kanu and Jeffers playing.   In one sense it looks rather weak, but then when we go back to the team that beat Southampton 6-1 at the start of the “49” it actually looks strong.  Pires scored his first goal since coming back from the injury that had kept him out for over half a season.

But 2-3 it was, we were out and that was one cup gone.

In the Champions League we topped the group with three wins two defeats and a draw, but went out in the second stage winning only one game – at home to Roma.  We only lost one as well, but the four draws did it for us.  The last game came in the period of injuries that I mentioned in the second league article – we could still put out a strong looking team but couldn’t break through the mass defences.

And so to the FA Cup.

We beat Oxford, Farnborough Town, Manchester United, Chelsea, Sheffield United and Southampton (although rather amusingly the Official Arsenal History has us down as playing “FA Cup Final” in the final – a team I hadn’t actually heard of before (page 279 1886-2009 edition).

Of this I remember Farnborough – the fixture was drawn to be played at Farnborough, but got moved to Highbury, as these things do, and as Farnborough took their places on the pitch at the clock end, the whole end started up with “You’re supposed to, you’re supposed to, you’re supposed to be at home.”  I seem to recall that Arsenal donated all the programme income to Farnborough – a nice gesture.

Pires scored the goal in the final, and it gave us some relief after the sadness of the defeat to Leeds.   Since beating Southampton 6-1 in the league we had beaten Sunderland 4-0, so 1-0 in the final seemed a bit poor, but Ian, Roger and I sat and watched it at Roger’s house in Market Harborough, and then I drove to London to meet the new lady friend.  Such memories are life made of.

The final team was

Seaman

Lauren Keown Luzhny Cole

Gilberto Parlour Pires Ljunberg

Bergkamp Henry

So there it was – we could have done the double again, but had to settle for the FA Cup.  Freddie was trying to become the first player to score in three successive cup finals – but didn’t.  But, hell, he played in them.

What else is there to remember?  An own goal by John Terry – always worthy of comment, as was Graham Poll’s body check of a Sheffield player in the semi.  And there was that extraordinary save from Seaman in the semi where he seemed to bend his spine backwards in order to reach over to get a ball that looked like it was certain to go in.

And Seaman raising the cup.  Yes, that was something to remember.

My relationship with the lady in London didn’t last, but life moved on, and I wondered if we might do anything exciting next season.  I honestly do remember thinking – maybe, just maybe…

—————–

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