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Remembering the battle against Liverpool in the cup

From 1999 to 2001 Arsenal finished runners up  in the Premier League three seasons running, the last of these being the year when Man U beat Arsenal 6-1 at Old Trafford, and Mr Wenger apparently truly did show his emotions after the game.

In the final year of the three however Arsenal did get to the cup final, where they met Liverpool, were in charge, went a goal up, and then let in two.

So some rebuilding of the side was ordered.    Giovanni van Bronckhorst came from Rangers, and Francis Jeffers also joined us.   Vieira made some fairly awful statements about the club’s level of ambition, suggesting he would be off to Man U.  It wasn’t looking that wonderful until 3 July 2001.

It is a day we should all remember as it was suggested by the all knowing bunch from down the pub (the so-called “journalists”) that we were signing Richard Wright from Ipswich, (yawn yawn).

Then into the press room came Sol Campbell.  Oh what fun.

I’ll deal with the progress through the league elsewhere, but it is worth spending a moment on the FA Cup. In the third round we played Watford, with the press full of the usual “wasted chances” stuff that was de rigueur at the time.  We won 4-2, Watford getting their second goal in injury time.

And so to the fourth, in which as per the last season’s final we played Liverpool – this time at Highbury.  What I remember most are not so much our first sending off of Keown but that of Bergkamp and Carragher.  It was the moment when an idiot in the crowd threw a coin on the pitch.  As invariably happens it didn’t strike anyone and landed on the grass.  (That is not to excuse the event, which is stupid in the extreme, but is a fact of life.  Thankfully coins thrown on pitches do not for the most part hit anyone).    Then Carragher threw the coin at the crowd – where it inevitably hit a fan.

Carragher was sent off, and in my own view should have been banned from Highbury for life, as was the fan who threw the coin onto the pitch.  But for his (Carragher’s) far more dangerous offence (in that the result of the action was certain to injure someone) nothing happened save a sending off and a three match ban.

But despite the sendings off and the subsequent nonsense, we won through a beautiful goal involving Thierry Henry, Van Bronckhorst and ultimately Dennis Bergkamp with his head.

As for the line up Arsenal included three forwards, while Liverpool included Nic Anelka who had started his globe trotting tour that was to last him the rest of his footballing life.

And it wasn’t long before the old Liverpool way of doing things shone through as Hyypia attempted to cripple Pires, who had to be removed from the ensuing battle.

Anelka hit the bar, Berkgamp nearly headed in a second, Anelka went off at half time and using an early version of rotational fouling Henchoz took up the Hyypia role.

Then Keown was sent off for a foul on Owen before Bergkamp mistimed a tackle on Carragher and was also sent off – the ref seemingly doing everything in his power to stop Arsenal winning the game.  Then came the coin throwing, Carragher threw it at the crowd, and for once the ref did the right thing, immediately sending him off.

Liverpool looked bemused that such a thing as one of their own being sent off could ever happen, and redoubled their efforts, still one man to the good, but even with only nine players, all playing in defences, Arsenal held on.

After the match, Phil Thompson, manager of Liverpool said, “The thing that worries me greatly is the number of incidents where objects are thrown on to the pitch”   It was one of the most ludicrous excuses for a defeat, and coverage of the insanity of one of his players, of all time.

Arsenal:

Wright, Luzhny, Keown*, Campbell, Cole, Pires (Parlour 20), Vieira, van Bronckhorst (Grimandi 84), Wiltord (Upson 68), Bergkamp*, Henry.

* Sent off

Subs Not Used: Dixon, Stack.

Arsenal in the 2002 FA Cup:

  •           5 Jan 2002: Watford 2 Arsenal 4
  •           27 Jan 2002: Arsenal 1 Liverpool 0
  •           16 February 2002: Arsenal 5 Gillingham 2
  •           9 March 2002: Newcastle 1 Arsenal 1
  •           23 March 2002: Arsenal 3 Newcastle 0
  •           4 April 2002  Middlesbrough 0 Arsenal 1
  •           4 May 2002: Arsenal 2 Chelsea 0

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