Have you heard of the curse that blights Arsenal Football Club?
No, it’s not Granit Xhaka or an exorbitant wage bill.
It began a long time ago, nearly three decades previous.
Arsenal Football Club were riding on the crest of a wave.
Trophy winner. Silverware in our possession.
Despite our squad being a bit too reliant on an ironclad backline and the goals of a mercurial Ian Wright, we had defied the odds and achieved glory. Written off by most industry experts, George Graham proved there was life in his tenure yet, even if the Gunners were sliding down the league table.
Our players were jubilant, as they had every right to be. We had ousted a formidable Sheffield Wednesday team (a team we would face in the FA Cup Final later that year), after going behind early in the first half. Our team had shown guts and fought back, with goals from ‘Magic Man’ Paul Merson hauling us level, before an unlikely hero emerged.
Steve Morrow – the name still invokes images of that glorious day. The man who was drafted in to partner Paul Davis in the centre of the park, Morrow followed up on a low ball by Merson, lashing home the loose ball in the box after a poor attempted clearance.
It should have been the happiest memory of Steve Morrow’s life.
Yet, it was blotted during the ecstatic scenes of victory.
Arsenal skipper Tony Adams wanted to lift goal hero Morrow up onto his shoulders, show the fans who had won the trophy – and give Morrow the adulation he deserved.
Instead, tragedy struck as Adams dropped Morrow, which saw the midfielder fall unceremoniously to the turf on his arm. It broke the bone, which saw Morrow taken to hospital instead of taking part in what would be a memorable night.
Morrow got his medal of course, given to him on the eve of the FA Cup Final. But it wasn’t the same.
And ever since that moment, 29 years ago – Arsenal have never won the League Cup.
Sure, we’ve had some close encounters. We lost the Final back in 2007 against Chelsea, despite taking the lead.
Four years later, we faced Birmingham and went into the game as strong favourites. Yet Alec McLeish’s men stood up to Arsenal’s possession-based game and took the trophy, thanks to a calamitous error between goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny and Laurent Koscielny.
Seven years later, we faced regular League Cup dominators, Manchester City and unsurprisingly slumped to defeat, 3-0.
And the above results, especially the Birmingham result, only add credence to the ‘curse.’ How we transpired to lose from such a promising position.
Just look at when Arsene Wenger’s side were at their strongest, between 1998 and 2005. There wasn’t a League Cup Final to mention. That may be down to priorities of course. There wasn’t a large group of clubs contesting the ‘bigger’ trophies, so the League Cup took a back seat – Manchester United even refused to play one year because they preferred to play in the Club World Cup. It was derided and Arsenal, United and often Chelsea and Liverpool, put out a team full of reserves and youth players, to blood them.
But Arsenal’s record in the League Cup, in the face of a decent amount of success elsewhere since 1993, is pretty poor.
So the talk of ‘curses’ continues. At least until we win it again.
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