Ian Wright starred last time Arsenal played EFL Cup second-round tie

Ian Wright, Dennis Bergkamp and Tony Adams all starred in a two-legged 8-0 thrashing of Hartlepool the last time Arsenal played a League Cup second-round tie 26 years ago – when they gave away 3,000 free tickets to local schoolchildren!

  • Arsenal are in second-round League Cup action for the first time since 1995 
  • They beat Hartlepool in a two-legged affair under Bruce Rioch 26 years ago 
  • Ian Wright scored four goals altogether and Dennis Berkamp netted a brace 
  • Tony Adams also netted twice and the Gunners will look for inspiration from it 

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 in charge of the north London club.

An 8-0 thrashing of Hartlepool in a two-legged affair was perhaps the highlight 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 netted two goals against Hartlepool in the second round of the 1995-96 League Cup, the last time the Gunners featured at that stage of the competition. 

Ian Wright (right), Dennis Bergkamp (left) and Tony Adams (centre) all netted in an 8-0 win against Hartlepool over two legs

That was the last time the Gunners featured in the second round of the League Cup

Mikel Arteta’s men will end that run as they take on West Brom at the same stage this season

That will no longer be true by the end of Wednesday night, with current under-fire boss Mikel Arteta taking his side to West Brom hoping to turn around their miserable start to the Premier League season.

Arsenal’s failure to qualify for Europe last season has left them with a second-round EFL Cup tie for the first time in 26 years, but they will be hoping to draw some inspiration from what happened all those years ago.

Here, Sportsmail looks back at the two-legged tie which was one of Arsenal’s few high points in the 1995-96 season.

Arsenal were still unbeaten after six games in the Premier League before their League Cup assignment in September 1995 was on the cards.

David Platt had already netted a couple of goals and main striker Wright was in excellent form too having averaged a goal every two games at the start of the season.

There were few signs yet that less than 12 months later, Rioch would be out of a job after a dispute with the club’s board of directors over transfer funds and that his replacement would be an unknown Frenchman called Arsene Wenger. 

There were perhaps even fewer that Wright would hand a transfer request in at Arsenal after being forced to play on the left wing by Rioch, actions the former England international claimed in 2018 he carried out because he was so ‘unhappy’.

But the feel-good factor would continue to be the case against Hartlepool, as many players now regarded as club legends contested the two-legged affair.

Bruce Rioch lasted just a season as Gunners boss and one of few highlights came against Hartlepool

Tony Adams scored twice in the first leg as the Gunners won 3-0 at Victoria Park

Bergkamp then shone in the second leg, scoring once in each half at Highbury 

The likes of David Seaman, Steve Bould, Lee Dixon and Nigel Winterburn all featured in the defence, while Paul Merson and Ray Parlour featured in central midfield.

Yet the first leg at Victoria Park would belong to former captain Tony Adams, who scored twice on the night – either side of Wright’s 40th-minute strike – in front of nearly 5,000 fans to all but confirm Arsenal’s place in the third round.

But there was much more gloss to come with the second leg at Highbury a couple of weeks later, with Rioch now playing with a back three of Bould, Adams and Martin Keown.

It is reported Arsenal distributed 3,000 free tickets to local schools for the match, and the children that turned up would not be disappointed. 

Bergkamp, Parlour and Merson all went close before the Dutchman gave the Gunners the lead, passing the ball in from the six-yard box following a delightful chip to the far post from 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 and he turned provider for the second goal, playing a beautifully-angled ball into the path of Wright, who had made a similarly intelligent run.

The England striker still had a lot to do but was given the option of lobbing goalkeeper Steve Jones, who tried to come out and meet him.

Wright duly produced a sublime chip over the keeper with his left foot to double the Gunners’ lead. Hartlepool had not managed to test Seaman at the other end meanwhile and that would continue into much of the second half. 

Instead, the barrage would continue at the other end after the break, with Bergkamp scoring his second of the game after hooking the ball home following Jones’ save from Parlour’s initial effort.  

Not long afterwards, a ball over the top would once again prove Hartlepool’s undoing and all Wright needed to exploit the visitors again. 

This time it was right-back Dixon – who spent most of his time in midfield such was Arsenal’s domination – that spotted Wright making an early run.

And after taking it down well as it dropped over his shoulder, he slid the ball past Jones at his near post with a measured finish. 

The ex-England striker netted a hat-trick in the second leg, largely through runs in behind

It was not all positive for Arsenal though, with Holland international Bergkamp requiring treatment following a heavy tackle. The forward had to be replaced but was applauded by the home fans as he limped round the touchline.

Compatriot Glenn Helder and fellow forward John Hartson came on, with Paul Merson also replaced, but the drama had not died down for the other star of the night. 

Dixon was heavily knocked to the ground and there were some suggestions he received a vicious elbow in the face.

Arsenal were awarded the free-kick but no further punishment was meted out by referee Steve Dunn. But protesting the decision of a caution not being handed out, Wright was booked following a verbal spat with the referee.

But his booking did not take anything away from the fact that Wright’s pace and control had been too much for Hartlepool all evening, and he would complete his hat-trick late on, lashing home after substitutes Helder and Hartson had combined.  

Ray Parlour also featured for the Gunners, and they would reach the semi-finals that season

Wright deservedly earned the man of the match award and Arsenal would go on to 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 do with a similarly strong run in this competition due to the lack of European football this season. 

The League Cup offers the Gunners a route back into Europe too, with the winner qualifying for the subsequent season’s Europa League, and the disadvantage of no continental football has already been seen this term in the transfer market. 

If they could add their second piece of silverware under Arteta this term, it would represent a much-needed return to European football. 

Bergkamp went off limping towards the end following a heavy tackle but was applauded by all

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