It’s a sign of the modern game that each and every footballing defeat is treated with hysteria and calls for managers to be sacked.
So it’s no surprise that the pressure on Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger intensified following their penalty shoot-out defeat to Bradford in the League Cup last night.
Arsenal are without a trophy since 2005, and with Man United and Man City already dumped out of the competition, the League Cup looked to offer Wenger’s side with a realistic chance of ending that trophy drought.
A 1-1 draw against League Two side Bradford City ended any such hopes, and the calls for Wenger to go have been fierce amongst certain sections.
The fact that the Gunners have been the victims of a huge cup upset at a time when they are struggling to find consistency in the Premier League isn’t going to help the manager’s cause.
But it’s important not to get carried away on the back of a single shock result in a cup competition. It was only the second time in Arsene Wenger’s time at the club years that Arsenal have lost to a team outside the Premier League in a domestic cup competition, and plenty of other top sides have faced the same – or even greater – humiliations over recent seasons.
Liverpool 1-2 Grimsby
Frustrated by an outstanding goalkeeping performance by Grimsby’s Danny Coyne, Liverpool were held to a 0-0 draw after 90 minutes. All seemed to be going well when Gary McAllister put Liverpool ahead in extra time, but Grimsby struck back with seven minutes remaining, before former Evertonian Phil Jevons fired a stunning winner from 30 yards which won it for Grimsby in injury time.
Burton Albion 0-0 Man United and Man United 0-0 Exeter City
Man United faced non-league opposition twice in consecutive seasons at the third round stage of the FA Cup. In 2005, the holders of the competition were drawn away to Burton, and were held to a goalless draw despite fielding a side which, although not at full strength, contained plenty of experience. The introduction of Rooney and Ronaldo in the last half hour was presumably to see the job done without the need for a replay, but Burton held on and earned a lucrative trip to Old Trafford.
A year later, the task looked even more daunting for non-league Exeter, with Old Trafford the venue for the initial match. But the outcome was the same as twelve months earlier, and a weakened Man United line-up were once again forced to a replay. Giggs, Ronaldo, Scholes and Rooney all started for Man United in the second fixture, and helped spare any further blushes as United won 2-0.
Southend 1-0 Man United
In a 2006 League Cup tie, Freddy Eastwood was the hero for Southend United as they shocked Man United. Southend were struggling in the Championship at the time of their fourth round win over Alex Ferguson’s men, who would go on to lift the Premier League title. Ten internationals made up the Man United team, with Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo amongst them, but neither could prevent Southend from pulling off a famous victory.
Barnsley 1-0 Chelsea
Championship side Barnsley had already dumped Liverpool out of the FA Cup at Anfield in the previous round, and may have wished for an easier tie than Chelsea as a reward. But it mattered not as they recorded a famous win at Oakwell in arguably the biggest shock of any in this selection due to the strength of their opponents.
Chelsea, whose squad had cost more than 600 times that of Barnsley, fielded nine of the players who would go on to face Man United in the Champions League final two months later. Yet amongst all of the stars on show, it was the name of Kayode Odejayi that would make headlines the following day, as his goal separated the sides and booked a semi-final place at Wembley.
Chelsea 1-1 Burnley
Ivanovic, Lampard, Ferreira, Deco, Malouda and Drogba were just some of the big names in the Chelsea side as they took on Championship opponents Burnley. Drogba netted for Chelsea in the first half, but an equalising goal for Ade Akinbiyi took the game into extra time.
Frank Lampard was denied a winner due to a raised flag for offside during the additional half hour of play, and focus turned towards the goalkeepers as the tie went to penalties. And it was Burnley’s Brian Jensen who was the eventual hero, saving Jon Obi Mikel’s spot kick to earn his side a 5-4 shoot-out victory. Burnley went on to knock Arsenal out in the next round – Arsene Wenger’s only other loss to a team in a lower division – before losing a semi final to Spurs.
Liverpool 2-2 Northampton Town
It’s hard to forget the images of a rain-soaked Roy Hodgson looking on as his Liverpool team crashed out to a side who were 17th in League Two at the time. Liverpool were fortunate even to be taking part in a penalty shoot-out, having required a late equaliser in extra time just to avoid elimination in the match itself. But David N’Gog followed up his goal with one of the penalty misses and, in front of the Kop, Northampton went on to triumph 4-2.
Man United 1-2 Crystal Palace
Despite all of the successes at Man United during the reign of Sir Alex Ferguson, it’s also United who seem to have been on the end of the most shock results in cup competitions over the last few years, not all of which have been included here – such as a 2-0 home loss to Coventry City in 2007.
Their most recent was only a year ago, when they fell at the same stage as Arsenal have done this season. A weakened team still included the likes of Dimitar Berbatov and Antonio Valencia, both of whom had been key players in the club’s title success the previous season. Crystal Palace saw a lead in normal time quickly cancelled out, but Glenn Murray’s headed goal in the second period of extra time restored Palace’s advantage and it was enough to earn a semi final with fellow Championship side Cardiff City.