Arsenal are one of the oldest major clubs in English football and the FA Cup is the oldest annual cup competition in the sport so it is fitting that the Gunners have the most successful record in it. Indeed, they have won the FA Cup more times than any other club. In recent years, Arsenal fans have not had all that much to shout about but their history is hard to match.
Moreover, this record in the cup nicely complements their status as the side with the longest unbroken streak in the top flight. Our focus here though is, of course, the FA Cup, so read on for more info on the long and illustrious connection between the north London giants and this prestigious and historic tournament.
When Did Arsenal Last Win the FA Cup?
Given the Gunners’ status as what Americans so inelegantly call the most winningest club in the competition, it should be unsurprising that Arsenal have won the FA Cup quite recently: in 2020 as it happens. They beat Chelsea 2-1 in a technically empty Wembley, the final played behind closed doors (due to you know what!).
FA Cup Finals
As of the end of the 2021/22 season, Arsenal have been in a massive 21 finals, winning exactly two-thirds of those. That record has taken a real boost of late, the Gunners winning seven finals in a row between 2002 and 2020. Amazingly, they have played Chelsea, Newcastle and Liverpool three times each in the showpiece at Wembley over the years. Their first and most recent finals are 93 years apart and you can see a summary of their results below.
|2014||Hull City||Won||3-2 (AET)|
|2005||Man United||Won||0-0 (AET and 5-4 on penalties)|
|1993||Sheffield Wednesday||Won||2-1 in replay after 1-1|
Stage of Elimination
As the table below shows, as well as those incredible 21 finals the Gunners have made it to, they have often made the latter stages of the competition but fallen just short. They really do have a phenomenal record in the FA Cup and below is a summary of just how far they have gone, including all FA Cups they have entered.
|Stage||Number of Times||Percentage|
|Qualifying Round 5||1||1%|
|Qualifying Round 4||1||1%|
|Qualifying Round 3||1||1%|
Note that the stats are correct up to the end of the 2022 tournament. The total does not equal 100% due to rounding. Earlier rounds were only played in earlier seasons before sides from the top two divisions only entered from the third round in the 1925/26 season.
Times Arsenal Won the FA Cup
As we have noted, Arsenal have a staggering record in the FA Cup, and it is the best by some distance. As they have enjoyed so much success, rather than go through every successful campaign we have grouped the wins together chronologically, starting with their most recent era of FA Cup success.
Gunners Golden in 21st Century – 2014 to 2020
Whilst the last Premier League title for Arsenal may have felt like it happened a lifetime ago – indeed if you are aged under 18 it was a lifetime ago – they have enjoyed success in the FA Cup that no fan has the right to even dream of. Since 2001, when they were runners-up, their record is better than the vast majority of teams have managed in their entire histories.
Beginning in 2001 and including the 2022 final, they have won the FA Cup seven times in 22 seasons. In the entire history of the competition, spanning over 150 years, only four other teams have won it more often than Arsenal managed in this excellent run.
As said, their most recent success came against Chelsea in 2020 in what was a poor season for the Gunners. They finished down in eighth position in the league and exited the EFL Cup in the fourth round. However, for the second time in four years, they beat their big London rivals 2-1 in the final to take home the famous old trophy. For the Blues, that would be the second of four final defeats in six seasons, though not even Arsenal could match Chelsea’s feat of actually making the final five times in six campaigns!
Chelsea were big favourites in 2020 but two goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang saw them overturn an early Blues goal from Christian Pulisic. In 2017 it was a very similar story, the Gunners shooting down the Pensioners(!) 2-1 in the final to claim their 13th FA Cup title and, astonishingly, their third in four seasons. They had needed extra time to get past Man City in the semis but had had a far easier time in the earlier rounds, beating non-league Lincoln (the first side from the fifth tier to make the quarters since 1914) 5-0 in the last eight and Sutton, also from the Conference, in the fifth round.
In 2016 the Gunners had missed out on the FA Cup, being eliminated in the quarters but the season prior they made it back-to-back FA Cup successes following their success in 2013/14 by beating Aston Villa 4-0 on the 30th of May, 2015. It was all too easy for Arsene Wenger’s men, though the game remained 0-0 until the 40th minute. After that it was one-way traffic and the Gunners, who had needed extra time in the semis against Reading, strode to yet another FA Cup triumph.
Twelve months prior it was Hull City that were vanquished at Wembley although it was a final that Arsenal supporters will remember well as, incredibly, their side found themselves 2-0 down after just eight minutes against a team they were expected to beat with ease. A Santi Cazorla goal in the 17th minute settled their nerves though before Laurent Koscielny scored just after 70 minutes to force extra time. Aaron Ramsey was the hero in the extra period, netting after 109 minutes to land the trophy once again.
Turn of the Century Class Even Better – 1998 to 2005
By their high standards, there had been a significant wait for that trophy as the final previously had been back in 2005. It was notable for being the first-ever FA Cup final to be settled on penalties and also for being the last at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, with the new Wembley ready for the following year’s showpiece. In addition, it was the Gunners’ 10th triumph in the competition.
That said, it was rather a dour, unmemorable clash otherwise, especially for the Arsenal faithful as opponents Man United had by far the better of the game. Nonetheless, it ended 0-0, after 90 minutes and extra time, and sadly for Paul Scholes, he was the only man to miss a spot-kick as Arsenal triumphed 5-4 in front of 71,876 supporters.
Following this win, things went downhill for Arsenal as they had finished second in the league alongside their FA Cup win but would only finish as high once in the next 15 years or so. This marked the end of Wenger’s great era and was the fourth FA Cup win for the Alsatian boss in eight years. The Gunners also lost in the final in that period and made a further two semis, never finishing outside the top two in the league either.
In 2003, they beat Southampton in the final, this being another FA Cup feast in Cardiff. The game ended 1-0 thanks to a Robert Pires strike in the 38th minute in what was a largely uneventful game. Arsenal got the better of Sheffield United by that same score in the semis (Sants beat Watford in what was a rather low-key final four), having beaten Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the quarters, a replay after a 2-2 home draw. The Gunners also beat Manchester United in the fifth round so it was a well-deserved success.
That victory made it two in a row again for Wenger and his brilliant side as they had also got the better of old foes Chelsea in Cardiff 12 months earlier. It truly was a Champagne era for Arsenal as the 2-0 win over the Blues brought them the Double, their second League and Cup Double in five seasons.
Twelve months before seeing off Chelsea the Gunners had lost a final – yes, Arsenal do lose cup finals occasionally. In 2001, Liverpool edged them out 2-1 in what proved to be the first of three consecutive FA Cup finals for the north London giants. Before that they had won the FA Cup in 1998 by beating Newcastle United in the final to clinch the double, as mentioned.
The final took place on the 16th of May, 1998 and was an even game with few clear chances. The Magpies actually had more of the ball (52% versus 48%) but only managed one shot on target (Arsenal had three). It was a lively encounter though, with five yellows, four to Kenny Dalglish’s Toon Army. The key stat, as ever, is goals, and on that front it was 2-0 to Arsenal thanks to Marc Overmars and Nicolas Anelka. Alan Shearer, the joint-leading scorer in that year’s FA Cup, hit the post but his side could not find a way through.
George Graham’s Vintage Arsenal – 1993
In the 18 months before Arsene Wenger took over at Arsenal in October 1996 the Gunners had employed three different men in the management role (albeit two as caretakers) but prior to that George Graham had been at the helm for almost nine years. Graham enjoyed huge success with the Gunners, delivering six major titles including the FA Cup in 1993.
That year they did the double of sorts, winning both domestic cups and, coincidentally, beating Sheffield Wednesday in the final of both. They needed a replay in the FA Cup after the first game ended 1-1, following a goalless period of extra time. England strikers Ian Wright and David Hirst scored the goals. A replay in a cup final may seem a strange thing to modern fans but they were only scrapped following the 1992/93 campaign and there has been a number over the years.
Wright again scored the opener in the replay, held at Wembley in front of a smaller crowd of just over 62,000 but again the Owls equalised and forced extra time. With just a minute to go in the extra 30 the unheralded Andy Linighan scored from a corner to seal the Cup for the Gunners.
70s on the Double – 1979 & 1971
The Gunners had a mixed time of things during the 1970s and early 1980s, doing the league and FA Cup Double for the first time in 1971 but finishing 16th and 17th in 1975 and 1976, respectively. They also lost three FA Cup finals but sandwiched between two of those losses was a win in 1979 when they beat Manchester United 3-2 in a real thriller at Wembley. With four minutes left United came from two down to equalise, only for the Gunners to pinch it at the death with a winner in the 89th minute from Alan Sunderland.
Earlier in the decade Arsenal were involved in another thrilling final, beating rivals Liverpool 2-1 to complete the Double as mentioned. The clash was 0-0 after 90 minutes but Liverpool opened the scoring early in the extra period. However, the Gunners hit back in the 101st and 111th minutes to take the glory. As an aside, that year Stoke finished third in the FA Cup (as there was a play-off game between the losing semi-finalists in the tournaments played between 1970 and 1974!).
Earlier Cup Wins – 1950, 1936 & 1930
You’d have to be rather old to remember any of Arsenal’s earlier FA Cup victories and they had a long wait between their third win, in 1950, and their fourth detailed above. That third FA Cup came in 1950 and was the fourth after the five-year gap due to World War II. Once again the Gunners saw off Liverpool in the final, winning 2-0 in what was the 69th edition of the competition.
They needed a replay and then extra time to get past Chelsea in the semis, whilst in the final a brace from one-club man Reg Lewis was enough to see them take the silverware. The final itself was notable for something that happened with regards to the opposition though; the Reds dropped future managerial hero Bob Paisley despite him having scored the winner against Everton in the semi.
Prior to 1950, the north Londoners had endured another long wait, this time stretching from 1936, when they beat Sheffield United 1-0 in the final. Ted Drake, who once scored seven in the top flight against Villa, a record to this day, notched the only goal of the game.
Their first FA Cup came just six years earlier during the 1929/30 season when they got the better of Huddersfield Town in the final. Town were probably the strongest side of this era, winning the league in 1924, 1925 and 1926 and finishing second in 1927, 1928 and 1934, as well as making four FA Cup finals in total between 1920 and 1938. Nonetheless, on the day Arsenal ran out comfortable 2-0 winners, with goals from Scottish international (and not former Blur bass guitarist) Alex James, and John Lambert.
Arsenal’s Worst Upsets
Football is a game of highs and lows and though Arsenal have been the pre-eminent team in the long history of the FA Cup, they have also been the victim of the occasional “cupset” over the years. Probably the most famous of them all came in 1992 when the Gunners entered the season as defending champions of the league.
That, however, did not stop them going down in the third round as they lost 2-1 to Welsh side Wrexham. The North Wales outfit were in the old Fourth Division so this was a huge shock, not least because the Gunners took the lead in the tie.
The Gunners have had a couple of minor upsets more recently, losing to Watford in 2016 and Blackburn Rovers in 2013, both at home. However, for another major shock you have to delve way back into the annals to the great Arsenal side of the 1930s. In 1933, in the middle of a nine-year period that saw them win the league five times and the FA Cup twice, they somehow contrived to lose 2-0 to Walsall who were in Division 3 North at the time!