Arsenal v Southampton: A Historic Match

With Arsenal facing Southampton on Wednesday its time to rack the brains for a somewhat historic match between the two. Despite not being a derby game there is still some history between the clubs which has been mostly transfer based in recent times. Seeing Southampton youth products like Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Calum Chambers, who is currently on loan at Middlesbrough, make the switch from the south coast to North London.
However this is meant to be about a match not transfers at the match that I’m focusing on is the F.A. Cup Final of 2003. Unlike now, when the New Wembley was being built the F.A. Cup Finals were played at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff where Arsenal have had quite mixed fortunes, winning the cup in 2003 but also losing in 2001 to Michael Owen’s Liverpool before losing the 2007 Carling Cup Final in extra time to Chelsea, a game which saw Walcott score his first goal for the club. But anyway back to the game at hand.
After seeing off the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea en route to the final Arsenal were faced by Southampton on the 17th of May 2003 in a game that ended in Arsene Wenger lifting his 3rd F.A. Cup trophy and his 2nd in successive seasons. These are the teams that were fielded that day.

The first half of the final got off to a rapid start with Arsenal creating their first chance within the first minute of the game. Thierry Henry found himself through on goal after being played through by Freddie Ljungberg, beating Southampton centre-back Claus Lundekvam who was left trying to bring the Frenchman down with him, but unfortunately Henry couldn’t beat goalkeeper Antii Niemi.
An Arsenal team that had already started a run which would see then go 49 games unbeaten kept the pressure on early forcing Saints defender Chris Baird to clear off the line. The last ditch save came from a Dennis Bergkamp shot which followed the first shot from Thierry Henry’s left boot from just inside the box which Niemi failed to keep hold of.
Gordon Strachan’s Southampton did manage to get themselves back into the game though and created a few chances midway through the first half. Anders Svensson saw a volley go over the bar as well as Baird giving David Seaman something to do in goal as he shot from range after winning the ball in midfield.
They also got the ball in the back of the net a couple minutes later but the linesman had flagged for offside. Jamie Beattie was the player who beat Seaman but he was tricked by the Arsenal defence’s offside trap.
With half time fast approaching Arsenal finally took an expected lead through Robert Pires on 38 minutes. The goal came as after Ljungberg was found in the box smartly by Bergkamp before he had his shot blocked. The block made sure the ball would fall into the path of Arsenal’s number 7 who needed just one touch before firing the Gunners into the lead despite Niemi being able to get a hand to the ball.
This wasn’t the last time Southampton’s goal was threatened before the break either as Pires had a chance to double the score but could only direct the ball over the frame of the goal.
After the break Southampton looked to get themselves back into the game and applied quite a bit of pressure on Arsenal. Beattie, now onside had the opportunity to open the Saints account for the day from a Matthew Oakley cross put couldn’t redirect the ball goalbound.
As usual Bergkamp did produce a moment of magic as, when set free by Henry, he then cleverly spun the retreating Brett Ormerod who was left tackling air, and then curled an effort towards goal but Niemi did all he could to match the shot but could only push the ball as far as an onrushing Ljungberg who smashed the ball into the side netting.
It just wasn’t looking to be Southampton’s day as Antii Niemi who was making some crucial saves looked to injure his hamstring after clearing a ball up the pitch in the 65th minute. He was replaced by Paul Jones.
Southampton came close again in the dying embers of the game as Seaman was called into action yet again. After a flick on the ball fell to Ormerod inside the box where he controlled the ball before pushing the ball past Oleg Luzhny and getting a shot off at Seaman’s near post. The ever-reliable keeper did well to tip the ball around the opposite post to get rid of the danger.
After holding on for 5 minutes of added time Arsenal almost conceded the F.A. Cup with the last kick of the ball. A Southampton corner swung deep into the box and was met by a header destined for the bottom corner but luckily Ashley Cole was in position to clear the ball in what was the match-winning moment of the game for Arsenal. Only minutes later the Arsenal got their hands on the trophy.
Hopefully on Wednesday the squad could be a bit more clinical in front of goal but also show the determination to not let Southampton get on the scoreboard.

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