Arsene Wenger will seek to guide Arsenal to a record 12th FA Cup triumph when they face Aston Villa on Saturday and become the most successful manager in the history of the grand old competition.
Yet as the Frenchman homes in on winning the trophy for the sixth time – one more than his former Manchester United sparring partner Alex Ferguson – Wenger promises the landmark does not concern him.
Pitted against famished Premier League opponents Villa, who are desperate for success after a 19-year trophy drought and faced a relegation battle this side, Wenger’s side are ready to retain the trophy they won last year against Hull City.
A sixth FA Cup win for Wenger would create a record in the modern understanding of a manager, though Villa’s manager/secretary George Ramsay oversaw six FA Cup victories between 1887 and 1920 and was the driving force behind their success.
Wenger has had the same kind of impact at Arsenal since he arrived in 1996, but says setting an individual landmark does not particularly bother him.
“I’d love to do it but I’m not honestly focused on that,” the Frenchman told reporters in the build-up to the final.
“I’m more focused on the fact that we have fought so hard to get there. We went to Manchester United to qualify (in the quarterfinals) and we had to win big games to get there. Now we want to finish the job.”
To do so, though, Wenger will have to get the better of Tim Sherwood, who helped secure Villa’s top flight status and has led them to a first FA Cup final in 15 years.
Sherwood has brought back a glimmer of Villa’s glory days, especially by masterminding the stirring victory over Liverpool in the semifinal, though it is 58 years since they last lifted the trophy.
This season’s competition has echoed Arsenal’s road to glory last year as they laboured to overcome second-tier Championship opposition Reading in the semifinal to set up a showpiece match with Premier League relegation escapees.
For Hull last year, now read Villa, who would seal a place in next season’s Europa League with a victory at Wembley.
Arsenal, though, having broken their own nine-year trophy drought at Wembley last term, are not under quite the same pressure as they were to win it last year.
“The demand was absolute last year,” said Wenger, recalling how his future was seriously questioned before the Hull game.
The Gunners’ most demanding fans will expect nothing less than Wenger picking up his ninth major trophy.
Only then, despite Champions League qualification being secured once more, can it be considered a successful season.
FA CUP FACT BOX
Arsenal will be taking part in a record 19th FA Cup final and will be hoping to become the all-time record winners with a 12th success. They currently share both the appearance record and the number of wins with Manchester United.
Arsenal will become only the fourth club to lift the FA Cup in successive years twice if they win on Saturday.
The Wanderers were the first to do so in 1872 and 1873 and again in 1876, 1877 and 1888. Blackburn Rovers won in 1884, 1885 and 1886 and again in 1890 and 1891.
Tottenham Hotspur won in 1961 and 1962 and then won successive Cups for a second time in 1981 and 1982. Arsenal won in 2002 and 2003 and are looking for a second double after beating Hull City last year.
Arsenal are seeking to equal Manchester United’s record of nine wins at Wembley. old and new. Their previous wins at Wembley were in 1930, 1936, 1950, 1971, 1979, 1993, 1998 and 2014. Their win over Hull last year was their eighth at Wembley, and their first in the new stadium. Their victories in 2002, 2003 and 2005 were in Cardiff.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will become the most successful FA Cup winning manager of the modern era if Arsenal are successful with a sixth win, one more than former Manchester United managerAlex Ferguson.
George Ramsay was the manager/secretary of Aston Villa and oversaw their six FA Cup wins between 1887 and 1920 before the modern notion of a manager was established.
Aston Villa had won the FA Cup six times before Arsenal won their first in 1930, and when Villa set the then-record of seven wins in 1957 when they won the cup for the last time, Arsenal had only won the FACup three times.
Arsenal have won the FA Cup eight times since Villa’s last success 58 years ago.
Aston Villa, like Arsenal, can boast of winning the FA Cup and League double. Villa completed the feat in 1897 while Arsenal have done the double three times in 1971, 1998 and 2002.
Villa Park has staged more FA Cup semifinals than any other ground, hosting 55 of them including replays before the semis were switched to Wembley in 2008.
Since the FA Cup began in 1871-72 there have only been five previous occasions when clubs whose names begin with the same letter have met in the final. They were:
1881: Old Carthusians v Old Etonians
1902: Sheffield United v Southampton
1953: Blackpool v Bolton Wanderers
1965: Liverpool v Leeds United
2004: Manchester United v Millwall.