Ten times that Arsenal overcame the odds to triumph in must-win games

As I will always give my honest opinion in the next few days, I will be accused of being negative as I dissect our chances of getting a result at the Etihad.

What’s been interesting is the contrast in attitudes of how certain ex-players turned pundits are approaching Wednesday night.

It’s no coincidence that those who were proven winners such as Gary Neville and Roy Keane feel Arsenal should be positive and excited about their current situation.

Neville said Sir Alex Ferguson would ask his squad, would they take needing to win one match to be champions, no matter how hard the game?

Form and history suggest Man City should beat us comfortably, but if the Gunners approach this as a cup final, does form go out of the window?

If our players approach this as the game of their lives and embrace the chance to become immortal, then who knows.

It remains to be seen if we have enough leaders to believe we can win against the Champions.

This time last year the majority of this squad were crippled by fear of failing to make top 4, so this would be some leap.

Yet there have been moments in our past where we did indeed have those characters to deal with adversity.

The one thing we have that City doesn’t is history, and we need to draw on the spirit of those who came before them.

Obviously, we won many finals, but this is more a countdown of moments where we showed grit and proved doubters wrong.

I have included the time frame that reflects my age so older Gooners feel free to add anymore to the list.

2016-2017 FA Cup Semi Final – Arsenal 2-1 Man City

This result completely contradicted our form with Arsenal often struggling in big games away from the Emirates, leading Mr Wenger to face a fan backlash for the first time since he arrived in England.

When Aguero scored, many Gooners feared the worst, but our manager showed he was still able to tactically adjust (something that was doubted).

To bring confidence to our defence he set up with a back 5 that got the best out of Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Rob Holding at the age of 21 produced what remains one of his finest performances.

2003/2004 Inter Milan 1-5 Arsenal

While things were going well domestically, in Europe Arsenal were in danger of elimination after picking up just one point from their opening three Champions League games.

A late Ashley Cole header at home to Kiev kept us in the competition by the skin of our teeth, but we still needed to win at the San Siro against the same opposition who had scored 3 at Highbury!

Thierry Henry produced a sensational individual performance making a mockery of accusations he went missing in the big games (yes that was a thing).

The Frenchman scored twice and assisted two goals to register one of our greatest European results.

Suddenly we were considered serious contenders to win the competition.

2019-20 FA Cup Semi Final – Arsenal 2-0 Man City

In his first season as a manager Mikel Arteta out thought his mentor.

Tactically, we restricted Man City to one shot on target and were clinical on the break, with Aubameyang converting two of only the 4 chances we had.

A 2-0 win with only 29 per cent of possession had some Gooners wrongly assuming that our manager had Pep Guardiola’s number.

This proves though our boss can defeat his teacher.

2016-2017 FA Cup Final – Arsenal 2-1 Chelsea

A week before Arsenal failed for the first time under Mr Wenger to finish in the top 4 and lost Koscielny, Mustafi and Paulista to injury and suspension.

It meant we had to face the Champions with Per Mertesacker making his first start of the season marshalling rookie Rob Holding.

The German surpassed expectations to such an extent that this showpiece is referred to as the ‘BFG Final’.

Proof that Rob Holding has the mentality to deliver in the big moments.

1993/94 European Cup Winners’ Cup final Parma 0-1 Arsenal

Oh, how I wish every Arsenal team had the mentality this version did in this Final.

With Ian Wright suspended and an injury hit midfield, the Gunners were the underdogs against a Parma side which included the likes of Zola and Asprilla.

We relied on our famous back 5 to protect the lead given to us by Alan Smith.

Defensively it was a superb tactical performance by the whole team. A vintage 1-0 to the Arsenal.

Remains our most famous night in Europe.

If only we had this mindset for next Wednesday.

2010-11 Arsenal 2-1 Barcelona

The moment Arshavin hit the back of the net, just for a moment it seemed the glory days were returning to North London.

In that moment we were top of the Prem, in the Final of the Carabao Cup and still in the FA Cup.

Arsenal had shown great resilience to stay in the tie at 1-0 down and were clinical when their few chances arrived.

In truth though, there was always a high chance that if Barcelona had the same possession stats in the second leg that we would be in trouble.

After Birmingham stunned us in that Wembley Final, our season fell apart including a 3-1 drubbing in the Nou Camp

2005/2006 Real Madrid 0-1 Arsenal

This would be Mr Wenger’s first season in English Football where he failed to finish in the top 2 since his first full season.

The irony being the year where he first truly struggled to qualify for the Champions League, would be the year, he so nearly lifted it.

We were made underdogs in the round of 16, purely based on the famous names Real Madrid possessed …. Zidane, Figo, Beckham, Carlos, Raul, Ronaldo, etc.

We had our own Galactico with Thierry Henry running through their defence to make us the first English side to ever win at the Bernabeau.

Unsung heroes included Senderos’ best performance as a Gunner, and Flamini playing as a makeshift left back.

2001/2002 Man United 0-1 Arsenal

Days after winning the FA Cup, Arsenal knew a draw at Old Trafford would be enough to secure the Championship.

Given the rivalry between the two clubs it was the dream scenario, a chance to take United’s trophy from them on their own turf.

Our only other victory at the Theatre of Dreams in the Prem era had also been part of a Double.

In the history of this fixture, this was perhaps as comfortable as we had even been, with you never sensing the point we needed was in danger.

Wiltord got the only goal, keeping up our unique record of scoring in every League match that season.

1997/1998  Man United 0-1 Arsenal

Such was their lead at the top of the table some bookmakers had already paid out on Man United retaining their title.

As the champions began to drop points though, Arsenal was quietly putting a winning sequence together.

It was hard to guage how serious our challenge was though, as it depended on us winning several games in hand.

Sir Alex Ferguson played mind games by publicly reminding us of this, only if we won those matches would we be deemed a threat and his stance was we wouldn’t handle that pressure.

So, when the two faced each other, the Gunners had a chance to put their destiny in their own hands (although we still have those games in hand).

The issue was we hadn’t scored in the Prem at Old Trafford let alone won any of them.

Alex Manninger and Overmars had their best games in our colours, the Dutchman scoring a famous goal which led to iconic celebrations.

We wouldn’t drop points again until we were officially champions.

Who will be our Overmars next week in Manchester?

1988-99  Liverpool 0-2 Arsenal

Perhaps the closest comparison we have to the task we face at the Etihad.

If anything, this was a harder task with us needing to win at Anfield by 2 clear goals, a stadium we hadn’t won at in 15 years!

We have been accused this week of bottling the title race, but our recent slump is nothing compared to what we went through in the 89 run in.

At one point we were 11 points clear at the top of the table, losing to Derby and drawing with Wimbledon, missing the chance to seal the Championship before the Liverpool fixture.

When the Champions beat West Ham 5-1, suddenly their goal difference was superior.

With game management we need to prove we have next week, George Graham was content for the game to be goalless at half time, convincing his players that if we got the first goal at any point, the Kopp would go nervous.

That’s what happened after an Alan Smith header in the 53rd minute.

As the clock ticked down, Barnes didn’t keep the ball in the corner, giving it away to allow Lukic to launch one last attack.

Steve McMahon famously told his teammates there was one minute left for Liverpool to hang on.

Michael Thomas wrote himself into immortality.


Arteta proud of our comeback after Arsenal 3-3 Southampton

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  1. @gotanidea. What’s that to do with Dan’s well written article. Excellent reading Dan. I remember those matches. Especially 1989,, alot of emotions that night at Anfield. Wasn’t long after the Hillsbrough Disaster fresh on people’s minds

  2. Top article DAN! Good to read and remember (for we older ones – though you are still young – from my perspective at least).

  3. Your not wrong Jon Fox. I’m watching it,, got up to see what the cat was up to ,,, miss the 3rd goal. Now it’s 4-0

    1. pj, Wow!. As you say- and you beat me to it as I has paused watching to make tea- now 5-0 and hopefully heading for Spuds worst thrashing ever. All praying it is so in our house!

    1. Likewise. Bar a short period in the early 80s when they briefly looked like establishing dominance over us, no matter how down our lots results can make me, spurs always find a way to lift me back up again!

  4. Newcastle’s form is worrying. I was hoping the Spuds got beaten,,, but not a thrashing like this. We are yet to play Newcastle. That’s how I look at it

    1. pj, I reason that the more certain Newcastle willbe of top four, by the time we play them them, the less difficult our game will be. More from hope than sound judgement though, I freely admit.

  5. Why is it called SAINT Totteringhams day?
    The way Spuds are getting mashed and roasted means it now OUGHT to be Chef Totteringhams Day!

    1. Hahaha,,, I thought today in England was Saint George’s Day. Had to look it up to see what it’s all about. I saw it on an Arsenal Site earlier this afternoon

      1. Thought you said yesterday that you did t care about st spud’s day Jon ,you’ve written 5 comments about them on this thread alone .

        1. jon fox
          April 22, 2023 at 9:22 pm
          Siamois yes we are not talking about it and the real reason why we are not is because few of us, if any, think of Spuds as serious rivals for us.

          As such non rivals, its not worth crowing that we are miles better Most of us have long taken that as read and so most now ignore the irrelevant St Totts day.

        2. What a rotten liar I must be then Dan! And so must you be, as I posted only one on St Totts day and four all told on Spuds, including that one.

          To be serious,I am aware that some of our global fanbase on JA have not access to the TV sports packages we have in Britain , so I WAS MERELY TRYING TO BE HELPFUL.

          But hey, that would not occur to you, given your constant down on me.

          I had a welcome rest from JA for a week or so but as soon as I return, my old “sparring partner, DK”, is waiting to verbally punch me once again.

          How predictable!

          1. It’s not about sparring jon it’s about your habit of constantly telling other fans what they should be doing ,but not taking your own advice as per above .
            I know you like to wriggle out of your own posts but it’s there to see buddy

            1. DAN well I should be grateful for small mercies, as at least you called me “jon” this time and not”jonny boy”!

              1. DK I mean Sky, BT and occasionally Amazon Prime. We have countless fans across the globe who have not the money or opportunities to watch our and other teams on TV, that we lucky ones do.

                I do not expect you to ever believe me but I was only trying to let some of our less advantaged global fanbase and many in Britain too, who do not have access to sports channels or who cannot afford them.

                When one is comparatively comfortable, it is easy to forget those who have little luck or material benefits in life.

                If you actually knew the REAL me and not the false impression you have convinced yourself about what I am , you would be EXTREMELY surprised DAN, at how thoughtful of others who are less lucky in life than I have been, I REALLY AM.

                I claim no nor deserve any credit for this whatsoever, as it is the sacred duty of all of us who have plenty, to be helpful and compassionate to those who have litle or nothing AND also to those who suffer blind prejudice for mere skin colour. Or other falsely perceived nonsensical “differences”.

                I do not want to be profound but your constant false criticism of me (whom you do not know at all),is very irritating and so for once I thought it about time to spell out my life philosophy.

                And guess what DAN, I AM FAR FROM PERFECT AND AM A HYPOCRITE TOO, as I fail, as a fallible human,to sometimes practice what I preach.

                I reckon you however must surely be perfect, as I have never read you ever admit a personal failing. Some cannot face up to that personal humility.

                And believe it or not, I do genuinely want to be friendly towards you from now on, now that we are being honest with each other.

                1. Streaming has all the packages for free! And available worldwide too.

                  Did you know most countries in Africa and India for Asian countries have the cheapest data bundles in the world? So cheap it makes wifi irrelevant to them.

                  And there are a lot of packages that you do not know available worldwide. Ever heard of SuperSport? Bein Sports?

                  Do you think international gunners live in caves and trees? Are you from this century or the 16th century? What a backward thinking. I am disappointed in you.

                    1. What to be expected from someone calling you a liar for pasting his exact own words?

                      Does he do it on purpose or is he that unaware of what he says or write?

  6. Not really a collection of against the odds there. Bar 1989, and the s/f and final of 2017 none of those were results against massive odds at really important juncture. No-one considered the Parma final as against the odds, even with the injuries. They were favourites, but Grahams sides were so tough to beat, no-one was writing us off. By contrast, in 1970 as no-one had recovered from a three goal deficit to win a final, even a two legged one, and Anderlecht were a very good side. Yet we managed the three goals we needed to take the tie.

  7. For Dan
    Nice article on those wonderful nights. All of which I remember.
    Unless my memory, in the 2016-17 semi final against Man City, I thought the standout defender was not Holding but Gabriel Paulista who had the best game as an Arsenal player.

    Still cannot get over the fact that we got rid of him and spent 35 million on Mustafi.

    I also remember him getting sent off against Chelsea (in my view incorrectly in what I thought was a backward step rather than a intended stamp) when Costa was physically assaulting Koscielny in that match and he was the only one who stood up to him for the sake of his defensive partners whereas others in our so called team were happy to get bullied and moan and collect their wages.

    1. Please never say that name again. Saying that name along with Caesar and Senderos, is likely to summon up some evil spirit. Although you could chuck in Cygan, Santos and Liechtenstein, and have a real witches coven of defenders so awesomely awful they could scare the pants off Freddie Krueger..

      1. For Marge
        Which name?
        Mustafi or Paulista?
        I thought Paulista was OK and certainly not in the list of defenders you mentioned with Cygan being the biggest joke.
        Senderos was part of the team that went all the way to the Champions league final largely because of I believe was Martin Keown’s influence that year in the defensive set up. Not great players but a defensive unit of Falmini, Senderos, Toure (all right he was half decent) and Eboue.

        1. Mustafi. There, I said it. Senderos was in that defence, but, as ever, a disaster waiting to happen. The manager never used him unless he had no choice. Senderos became a, err, ‘legend’ wherever he played. A guy I used to play in the same Saturday side with, said this in response to a mates comment that ‘Fulham had a good chance of beating Spurs at the weekend’. He said, ‘sadly no. Senderos is playing so no chance’. Spurs won 3-1, their first win in weeks, and Senderos was at fault for two of the goals. A few years later I was at work and one of the guys asked, ‘Senderos is playing tonight, what’s he like’. To which I replied, ‘Everton are out’. ‘He can’t be that bad’ he said. I just laughed. The following day, he (and others) said, ‘k’in hell, you weren’t wrong, he’s useless’. Senderos was at fault for every major incident in the game… What a guy.

          1. Thanks Marge for clarifying.
            We all need a sense of humour as a pick me up after the last few weeks. I needed that and you provided it.
            Funnily enough I cannot wait for the Wednesday match. Just hope MA puts a proper holding midfielder next to Partey and doesn’t dump all the responsibility for a person who is off form. Maybe Jorginho or Xhaka or even Zhinchenko for his football intelligence. Then brings back Tierney at LB position.
            We need a draw to close out a disappointing Apr with a hope of a great May.

  8. Great piece Dan, that win at Anfield in 1989 is the best of the lot.

    Pool only needed a draw to win and lifted that big jug, but not that Arsenal had to win but they needed to do so with two clear goal, when the dust settles many on hand am told couldn’t really fathom what happened.

    History shows Arsenal finds remarkable character when their chips are low.

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