FLASHBACK: Ian Wright starred when Arsenal last played in the second round of the EFL Cup… 26 years ago!
Bruce Rioch knows a thing or two about being an Arsenal boss under pressure, but even he managed a moment in the sun in his only season as manager of the club in north London.
An 8-0 thrashing by Hartlepool in a two-legged affair was arguably the culmination of what was otherwise a disappointing 1995-96 campaign for the Gunners, who finished fifth in the Premier League and were knocked out by Sheffield United in the third round. of the FA Cup.
But Ian Wright scored four goals and Dennis Bergkamp and Tony Adams both scored two goals against Hartlepool in the second round of the 1995-96 League Cup, the last time the Gunners played at that stage of the competition.
Ian Wright (right), Dennis Bergkamp (left) and Tony Adams (center) all scored in an 8-0 win against Hartlepool over two legs
That was the last time the Gunners played in the second round of the League Cup
Mikel Arteta’s men will end that run if they take on West Brom at the same stage this season
That will no longer be the case by the end of Wednesday night, with current boss Mikel Arteta siding with West Brom in the hopes of turning around their miserable start to the Premier League season.
Arsenal’s failure to qualify for Europe last season saw them tie for the first time in 26 years in the second round of the EFL Cup, but they hope to draw some inspiration from what happened all those years ago.
Here, Sports post looks back on the two-legged draw that was one of Arsenal’s few highlights of the 1995-96 season.
Arsenal were still unbeaten after six games in the Premier League before their League Cup assignment was on the line in September 1995.
David Platt had already scored a few goals and striker Wright was also in excellent form averaging every two games at the start of the season.
There were few signs that Rioch would be out of a job less than 12 months later following a dispute with the club’s board of directors over transfer fees and that his replacement would be an unknown Frenchman named Arsene Wenger.
There were perhaps even fewer who would make a transfer request to Arsenal after being forced to play on the left wing by Rioch, actions the former England international claimed in 2018 that he carried out because he was so ‘unlucky’.
But the feel-good factor would remain against Hartlepool as many players now considered club legends contested the two-legged affair.
Bruce Rioch only lasted one season as Gunners boss and one of the few highlights was against Hartlepool
Tony Adams scored twice in the first leg as the Gunners won 3-0 at Victoria Park
Bergkamp then shone on the second leg, scoring once in each half at Highbury
The likes of David Seaman, Steve Bould, Lee Dixon and Nigel Winterburn all played in defence, while Paul Merson and Ray Parlor took center stage in midfield.
Yet the first leg at Victoria Park would belong to former captain Tony Adams, who scored twice that night – either side of Wright’s 40th minute strike – in front of nearly 5,000 fans to confirm Arsenal’s place in the third round.
But much more brilliance came with the second leg at Highbury a few weeks later, with Rioch now playing with a back three of Bould, Adams and Martin Keown.
Arsenal have reportedly given out 3,000 free tickets to local schools for the match, and the kids who showed up are said to not be disappointed.
Bergkamp, Parlor and Merson all got close before the Dutchman gave the Gunners the lead by sliding the ball in from the six-yard box on a delicious chip to the far post of the latter.
But the two legs belonged to former striker Wright, who scored four goals over the two legs
Bergkamp was the legacy Rioch would leave behind and he became supplier for the second goal by playing a beautifully hooked ball into Wright’s path, who had made an equally intelligent run.
The England striker still had a lot to do but was given the opportunity to lob goalkeeper Steve Jones, who tried to come out and meet him.
Wright produced a superb chip over the keeper with his left foot to double the Gunners’ lead. Hartlepool, meanwhile, had failed to test Seaman on the other side and that would last much of the second half.
Instead, the barrage would continue on the other side after the break, with Bergkamp scoring his second of the game after hooking the ball home after Jones’ save from Parlor’s first try.
Not long after, a ball over the top would once again prove Hartlepool’s undo and everything Wright needed to exploit the visitors once again.
This time it was right-back Dixon – who spent most of his time in midfield, as was Arsenal’s dominance – who saw Wright make an early run.
And after getting the ball down well as it fell over his shoulder, he shoved the ball past Jones at his nearest post with a measured finish.
The ex England striker scored a hat-trick in the second leg, largely through overtaking from behind
It wasn’t all positive for Arsenal though, with Dutch international Bergkamp having to be treated after a tough tackle. The attacker had to be replaced but was cheered by the home fans when he limped along the sidelines.
Compatriot Glenn Helder and fellow forward John Hartson took the place, also replacing Paul Merson, but the drama had not yet died down for the other star of the evening.
Dixon was badly knocked to the ground and there were some suggestions that he was brutally elbowed in the face.
Arsenal were awarded the free kick, but referee Steve Dunn handed out no further penalty. But in protest at the decision not to issue a warning, Wright was shown a yellow card after a verbal altercation with the referee.
But his booking didn’t change the fact that Wright’s pace and control had been too much for Hartlepool all evening, and he would finish his hat-trick late and take it home after the substitutes combined Helder and Hartson.
Ray Parlor also played for the Gunners and they would reach the semifinals that season
Wright rightly deserved the man of the match award and Arsenal would reach the League Cup semi-finals before losing on away goals to Aston Villa, who also finished a place above the Gunners in the top flight.
The current Arsenal squad could use an equally strong streak in this competition due to the lack of European football this season.
The League Cup also offers the Gunners a route back to Europe, with the winner qualifying for next season’s Europa League, and the downside of no continental football has already been seen in the transfer market this season.
If they could add this term to their second silverware under Arteta, it would be a much-needed return to European football.
Bergkamp left limping towards the end after a tough tackle, but was cheered by everyone