The FA Cup Perfect XI

It’s reached that time of the season where fans from different corners of the country head to the capital. Wembley Stadium plays host to one of the most anticipated weekends of the footballing calendar, the FA Cup semi-final weekend. Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs and Manchester City play for the opportunity to return to the home of English football next month and contest the trophy signalling the curtain call of another domestic season.

Many players have left their name in the history of England’s most prestigious competition, for various reasons. Whether it’s lifting the trophy or starring in a fantastic upset, it’s part of what makes the FA Cup special. Here’s the modern day FA Cup Perfect XI.

 

Petr Cech

The Chelsea legend and current Arsenal keeper is set to appear in his seventh FA Cup semi-final, going for this fifth FA Cup crown. This is a superb record for someone who arrived in England in 2004.

He was a crucial part of in Chelsea’s run of four Wembley wins in six years and being between the stick during their 29 game unbeaten run in the competition, excluding penalty shoot-outs from 2009-13. A safe pair of hands and hoping to add one with Arsenal.

Sean Ragget

The representative of a team’s outstanding feat in this season’s FA Cup. Ragget headed home a dramatic winner for Lincoln City away at Premier League Burnley. The first non-league team to reach the FA Cup quarter-finals in 103 years and the first in Lincoln’s history.

Beating Championship high-flyers Brighton was impressive enough, but they defied the odds, giving the FA Cup another memorable moment.

John Terry

The first player to captain the same club to four FA Cup wins, Terry is Mister Chelsea and it would be fitting if he were to depart the Blues, standing a loft with the trophy at Wembley again.

A colossal leader and defender, one of the greatest to grace the English game and a serial winner.

Sol Campbell

One of England’s most underrated centre halfs, the man who crossed the border of North London had his most infamous FA Cup moment in a Blue shirt. In 2008, he captained Portsmouth to their first title in 58 years after Kanu’s goal beat Cardiff City.

A three time winner with Arsenal as well, Campbell was past his best with the south-coast side but led them to history and the end of an era as things came crashing down with off the field problems.

Campbell (Credit: voice-online.co.uk)
Sol Campbell (Credit: voice-online.co.uk)

Ashley Cole

A record seven-time winner with Arsenal and Chelsea, Englands’s greatest ever left-back loved the FA Cup. A scorer in Arsenal’s penalty shoot-out win over Manchester United in 2005, he moved to the Blue side of London and became well acquainted to the historic trophy.

A quality team member, defensively and overlapping the winger on that left-hand side.

Steven Gerrard

One of the best individual performances I’ve ever witnessed. Up there with Lionel Messi against Arsenal in 2010, Andrey Arshavin against Liverpool in 2009 and Ronaldinho against Real Madrid in 2005. With his side 3-2 down into stoppage time, after already scoring a great goal, he lashed in an inspired long-range strike to salvage hope.

Pulling up with cramp, Gerrard looked to be on his last legs, but as the ball came out from the penalty area, he took charge and beat Shaka Hislop from 30 or so yards. He scored in the penalty shoot-out later to win the best FA Cup final of modern time.

Credit: illini00711

Ben Watson

Ending Roberto Mancini’s reign at Manchester City and clinching Wigan’s only major trophy. Despite relegation in the same season, this will be treasured by all Wigan fans forever, toppling Manchester City at Wembley thanks to Ben Watson’s near-post header.

It took Wigan into Europe and gave Latics fans a day they’ll never forget.

Yaya Toure

It would be the beginning of the rise of Manchester City. Yaya Toure’s decisive strike against Stoke in 2011 ended a 35 year wait for a major trophy and was the catalyst for their move to the top of the Premier League hierarchy.

Toure has been the focal point for this era of success for City who have since won two Premier Leagues, two League Cups and reached the Champions League semi-finals, with Guardiola at the helm, there could be another Cup this May.

Ryan Giggs

The most decorated British footballer in history. The Manchester United great achieved four FA Cups, yet his iconic moment was a semi-final strike worthy to grace any generation. In extra-time against Arsenal in 1999, on their way to the treble, Giggs danced past Arsenal defenders, left Tony Adams in his wake and beat David Seaman emphatically.

The FA Cup’s greatest goal by one of Britain’s greatest sportsman.

Jon Stead

A curveball, but a justifiable one. Scorer in one of the biggest FA Cup upsets of all time. Bradford City dumped out run-away Premier League leaders Chelsea on their ground, 4-2, the same team that was tipped to tackle the Invincibles record earlier that campaign!

Stead also netted in their victory over Premier League outfit Sunderland in the next round, a magical run for City who have made their name for cup runs in recent years.

Drogba (Credit: aljazeera.com)
Didier Drogba (Credit: aljazeera.com)

Didier Drogba

A man whose second home is Wembley Stadium. Seven goals in nine Wembley appearances, four of them in finals. He’s the man for the big occasion, with goals in three League Cup finals and his treasured header in the Champions League final of 2012.

The only player to score in four FA Cup finals, if you want someone for England’s most decorated competition it’s Didier Drogba.

Four of England’s giants do battle for a place in the final in May, it could be a first title in English football for Pep Guardiola, Antonio Conte or Mauricio Pochettino or a record breaking 13th victory for Arsenal and potentially a last for Arsene Wenger.

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