As the Emirates FA Cup’s 150th anniversary campaign comes to a close, the competition’s most successful manager has been speaking about his own love affair with the famous old trophy.
Arsene Wenger led Arsenal to FA Cup glory seven times during his spell with the north London club, surpassing the records of George Ramsey (six titles, with Aston Villa between 1887-1920) and Sir Alex Ferguson (three titles between 1990 and 2004).
The Frenchman’s first taste of Cup success came in 1998 and back-to-back victories followed in 2002 and 2003 before a win in 2005 then preceded a ten-year wait until 2015’s title.
Wenger’s final taste of FA Cup victory came in 2017 before he left his role after 22 years with the Gunners in 2018.
And to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the world’s original knockout competition, Wenger invited us to his home to recall each of those victories and his affection for the Cup.
“Personally, I’m very proud of the record, because I’m a little French boy coming to England and this competition now exists for 150 years and I’ve won it more than anybody else,” he said.
“Of course, I don’t hide it and I’m very proud of that because it’s not easy and it means when you stay for 22 years, basically every three years I won the FA Cup.
“I’m very proud of that because it shows a remarkable consistency and that I had a huge respect for this competition as well.
“Let’s wait until somebody beats me and even then…I think I was the first foreign manager to win the Premier League and then have the record in the FA Cup so overall I think I didn’t do too badly in the English game.”
Wenger arrived at the old Highbury in 1997 fresh from a spell coaching in Japan, having previously cut his teeth in France with Monaco and Nancy.
And he still recalls how the club’s tradition and history with the FA Cup was something he felt as soon as he walked through the door.
“The history shows you that, when you’re inside the club, you want always to do as well as former people have done,” he explained.
“You realise on the celebration days, what it means for people and the size of the support at Arsenal.
“I’ll never forget in ’98 when we won the first double, you walk through Islington to go to the city and you realise the number of people who are there and how happy they are – you want them to feel that again.
“The huge size of support and the club makes you realise you have to do something for them and you can’t neglect any competition.”
Even though Arsenal won’t be involved in the 2022 Cup Final, Wenger will be watching on as Chelsea and Liverpool lock horns to be the latest name etched onto the side of the trophy.
And with two German managers in Thomas Tuchel and Jurgen Klopp looking to win their own first FA Cup titles, does Wenger have any advice?
“Keep things simple, play your best players in their best positions and don’t make any big mistakes in the week before,” he said.
“And adjust your speech to the mental state of your team on the day of the game.”
Sounds easy enough, over to you Thomas and Jurgen…