Pitchside

Arsenal’s catalogue of catastrophe since 2005

Pitchside

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You may have heard, but it’s been a while since Arsenal last won a trophy.

All that can change on Saturday when they face Hull City in the FA Cup final at Wembley, but despite being big favourites, Arsenal fans have suffered too much for too long to regard the final as a foregone conclusion.

[MATCHPACK: ARSENAL V HULL CITY, FA CUP FINAL]

If Arsene Wenger can finally lift silverware again for the first time since the 2005 FA Cup final against Manchester United, it will likely be regarded as one of the most significant triumphs of his time in charge of the club.

And that is largely due to the long, long list of disasters which have befallen the club in the intervening years.

Here, in reverse order, are the nine worst trophy catastrophes Arsenal have suffered since they last won something.

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9. Blackburn, FA Cup fifth round, 2013

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Michael Appleton won only four of his 15 games during a brief and instantly forgettable spell as Blackburn Rovers manager; remarkably, one of them came against Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal at Emirates Stadium. This ruinous result – a 1-0 defeat courtesy of a goal from Colin Kazim-Richards - came only months after another infamous cup exit at the hands of a lower-league team and had Arsenal fans in mutinous mood.

Why did it hurt so much? David Bentley was playing for Blackburn and revelled in the futile abuse directed at him from the home supporters.

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8. Chelsea, League Cup final, 2007

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After the disappointment of Paris (see below), Arsenal were back in a major final the following season but their young side, who took the lead through Theo Walcott’s first goal for the club, were eventually overpowered by a far more experienced Chelsea side, who came out 2-1 winners thanks to two goals from Didier Drogba. A brawl broke out before the final whistle as John Obi Mikel, Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor were all sent off, with Wenger and Jose Mourinho having to come onto the pitch to calm their teams down. Abou Diaby also booted John Terry in the face and sent him to hospital, but the Chelsea skipper was back in time to join the celebrations.

Why did it hurt so much? It was Chelsea. In a final.

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7. Wigan, League Cup semi-final, 2006

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This was the first trophy setback following the 2005 FA Cup final and a worrying portent of things to come. After an under-strength side lost the first leg away 1-0 to a Paul Scharner goal, few expected Arsenal to actually go out, but, having gone 2-1 up on aggregate in extra-time thanks to goals from Thierry Henry and Robin van Persie, they were eliminated when Jason Roberts scored with a minute to go before penalties as Wigan won on away goals. Catastrophe began to contaminate Arsenal’s gene pool.

Why did it hurt so much? Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry, Robin van Persie and Robert Pires all played for Arsenal. Neil Mellor and Roberts started up front for Wigan.

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6. PSV Eindhoven, Champions League last-16, 2007

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This was a defeat which did so much to establish the dastardly template of Arsenal’s spring collapses. In the space of 10 days, Arsenal contrived to lose a League Cup final (see below), get knocked out of the FA Cup by Blackburn and then the Champions League by unfancied PSV, who drew 1-1 in Islington to send Arsenal out 2-1 on aggregate thanks to a header from on-loan Chelsea defender Alex.

Why did it hurt so much? The PSV exit, coupled with the setbacks which preceded it, confirmed Arsenal fans’ worst fears: the backbone of their team had been removed.

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5. Liverpool, Champions League quarter-final, 2008

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This titanic battle over two legs came in a season where Arsenal had genuine title aspirations (see Birmingham, below), but they were to taste disappointment on all fronts again after a trademark collapse. Having drawn the first leg 1-1 – with Dirk Kuyt getting away with a blatant pull on Alexander Hleb in the box and Nicklas Bendtner accidentally clearing off the line from Cesc Fabregas – Arsenal had a point to prove in the second and, at 2-2 in the 84th minute courtesy of a sensational run from Walcott to set up Adebayor, were going through on away goals. However, Toure quickly brought down Ryan Babel in the box to give away a penalty, scored by Steven Gerrard, before Babel added a fourth to make sure.

Why did it hurt so much? The injustice and the ineptitude. Arsenal should have won the first leg and then Toure’s rash challenge cost them the second.

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4. Barcelona, Champions League final, 2006

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A defeat to Barcelona in the final of the Champions League is hardly a complete embarrassment, but still, Arsenal had plenty of reasons for regret after a rainy night in Paris. Jens Lehmann’s early sending off reduced the Gunners to 10 men – meaning Robert Pires had to make an early exit and Dennis Bergkamp wasn’t able to come on at all – and even though they went 1-0 up thanks to Sol Campbell’s header, Arsenal wasted some superb opportunities, notably through Thierry Henry, before seeing two late shots beat Manuel Almunia.

Why did it hurt so much? It was Arsenal’s first ever Champions League final. They are still yet to win a European trophy under Arsene Wenger, and in 2012 saw Chelsea become the first London side to lift the European Cup.

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3. Birmingham City, Premier League, 2008

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Arsenal would have extended their lead in the Premier League to eight points had they won at St Andrews in February 2008, but such was their mental disintegration, this can be pinpointed as the moment they lost the title. Wenger’s side – not one of his best, but fused together with impressive team spirit - had enjoyed a tremendous campaign but that all came undone on a fateful Saturday afternoon. After only three minutes, Martin Taylor shattered Eduardo’s leg in a sickening challenge, leaving his foot delicately hanging off his body in one of the worst injuries ever seen on an English pitch. Even then, two goals from Walcott had Arsenal 2-1 in front but disaster struck in injury time when Gael Clichy brought down Stuart Parnaby, James McFadden scored from the penalty spot and a distraught William Gallas staged a sit-down protest.

Why did it hurt so much? The scale of Eduardo’s injury was grotesque, and Gallas’s indignant fury and grief, while unbecoming of a captain, summed up the emotional turmoil of the supporters.

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2. Bradford City, League Cup quarter-final, 2012

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Some defeats on this list are painful, some are crushing, but for sheer utter embarrassment nothing beats the humiliation of losing a quarter-final match to a League Two side. Arsenal, lining up with players such as Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla, could never have conceived of possible defeat yet an unutterably awful display saw them trail until the 88th minute when Thomas Vermaelen scored a late leveller. But then came penalties, and Arsenal missed three of theirs to surrender their claim to another domestic trophy in such abject fashion.

Why did it hurt so much? Because 65 places separated the teams in the league ladder.

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1. Birmingham City, League Cup final, 2011

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It may well be impossible to properly crystallise the horror that the events of February 27, 2011 invoked for Arsenal fans. This was the club’s third final since 2005 and was viewed as a sure thing against an awful Birmingham side destined for relegation. It was also the perfect chance to finally end the jibes about the club’s lack of silverware, to shut up those for whom Arsenal had become a rich source of comedy. Pride, glory and history were at stake, yet Arsenal, lamentably, froze. That the deadly blow in a 2-1 defeat came via a calamitous defensive error with two minutes remaining was surely symbolic of Arsenal’s enduring ability to shoot themselves in the foot. The catastrophe to end all catastrophes.

Why did it hurt so much? If you weren’t there, then you don’t understand, man.

Tom Adams - @tomEurosport

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