Arsenal brought an end to a nine-year trophy drought when they came from 2-0 down to beat Hull City 3-2 in a thrilling FA Cup final. It may have saved Arsene Wenger from quitting, it may have started something special, it may also have been a massive fluke.
The FA Cup format is clear: you can only beat who is put in front of you. But last season Arsenal's luck in the random draw was almost unbelievable. From the third round to the final, Arsenal were given every chance of qualifying. In fact, including the semi-final and final at Wembley Stadium, Arsenal never left north London.
They did face tough games against Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool, but all were made easier by the fact they were drawn at home. Coventry and Everton also made the journey to the Emirates, falling at the fourth round and sixth round respectively.
The luckiest of draws
They were then drawn a tough semi-final against Manchester City. All the Citizens had to do was dispose of Championship strugglers Wigan Athletic in their own Etihad Stadium. Against all odds, the Latics won and looked capable of completing an unlikely defence of their FA Cup trophy.
Having beaten Wigan on penalties and Hull City after extra time, Arsenal made tough work of their final two games. That can be expected considering no one in this current team had won a major trophy with their current team. They were a bag of nerves for all of the 240 minutes played in the semi-final and final.
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Arsenal's luck in the draw continued into this season with a home draw against Hull City and an away trip to Brighton and Hove Albion. A fifth round tie at home to Middlesbrough was a free pass into the sixth round as far as most people are concerned - this is the FA Cup, after all.
That is where the luck has run out. Despite teams like Bradford, Reading and Blackburn Rovers available, they were drawn against Manchester United or Preston. When the League One side took the lead last night it seemed as if the Gunners would again get off lightly, but the Red Devils avoided an embarrassing defeat to win 3-1.
Now Arsenal face their toughest FA Cup tie since they last travelled to Old Trafford in 2011 where they lost 2-0 in the sixth round.
Arsenal's FA Cup fixtures since March 2011
- Leeds United H
- Aston Villa H
- Sunderland A (lost)
- Swansea City A
- Brighton A
- Blackburn Rovers H (lost)
- Tottenham H
- Coventry H
- Liverpool H
- Everton H
- Wigan N
- Hull City N
- Hull City H
- Brighton A
- Middlesbrough H
- Manchester United A
When Arsenal take the field at Old Trafford, almost four years since their 2-0 humbling in the same competition and four years since their last truly challenging FA Cup tie, they will be a different team. They will be the holders and, theoretically, they won't be willing to give up their title without a fight.
Arsenal fans have every right to bemoan the draw, the player should be relishing it. Now they finally have the chance to prove themselves as worthy holders as well as the favourites for this year's competition.
A different proposition
Manchester United away are a wholly different proposition to anything the Gunners faced at home last season. Having said that, Louis van Gaal's men have shown enough vulnerability for Arsenal to fancy their chances.
Arsenal's record against their biggest rivals is bad. In fact, it's terrible. Their 2-0 win against Manchester City last month was just their eighth in 34 games against other top four competitors and the first time they have won in Manchester since 2010. But the win was significant; it set a blueprint for future success against their biggest rivals.
If Arsenal can beat the Red Devils, it will put to bed all talk of luck - this will be their competition to win for a second consecutive time as well as prove last year was no fluke. If Arsene Wenger wants to prove this is a new era of success, he has to show he has the bottle to win in the toughest environments. He should be thanking his lucky stars that he finally has the chance to do it.
Do you think Arsenal have what it takes to win at Old Trafford or would you be happy to take a draw and take things back to north London? Give us your views in the comment box below!
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