Arsenal lifted the FA Cup for a record 12th time on Saturday with a dominant 4-0 win over Aston Villa.
The game was always likely to be open against Tim Sherwood’s Aston Villa side, and that played into Arsenal’s hands.
The Arsenal team looked familiar, with Arsène Wenger’s only big decisions for his side resting on who would lead the line and who would play in goal.
Wojciech Szczęsny, who has been the Cup keeper in 2015, was selected at Wembley again and Theo Walcott’s first-half hat-trick against West Brom was enough to convince Wenger he deserved to keep his place.
Both players had missed last season’s final against Hull City and were surely determined to make their mark this time around.
Walcott started up front and his non-stop movement caused a lot of problems for Villa, just as it did for West Brom.
A completely different striker to Olivier Giroud, Walcott may not possess the same ability to hold up the ball but stretches defences and leaves them with gaping holes.
Aaron Ramsey had a good opportunity early in the first half after Walcott had drifted to the right and created a space which the Welshman burst into.
The second half saw much of the same with Walcott himself only being denied by an excellent tackle from Jores Okore and a terrible finish of his own. Aston Villa’s back four were not quick nor intelligent enough to cope with Walcott’s movement, and he made the most of their high line.
Pulling onto the outside of the defence before bursting across them onto through balls from Mesut Özil and Aaron Ramsey, Walcott’s pace and intelligent movement are superb. He’s certainly an option as a striker now.
Shortly before half-time Walcott grabbed the crucial opener after moving to the left wing. The more robust Alexis Sánchez took Theo’s space in the box and knocked the ball down for Walcott to thrash home.
Up front, Walcott gives Arsenal a different way to play and it perfectly suits us when we are on the break as well as when we have to stretch a defence out.
Movement off the ball also created the second goal, with Nacho Monreal dragging Alan Hutton out which gave Alexis the space to spin before unleashing his unstoppable effort.
Running off the ball, swapping positions, and leaving the Aston Villa defence dizzy, Arsenal’s attacking game was at it’s very best.
Wojciech v Benteke
Aston Villa’s main threat was always likely to be big Belgian striker Christian Benteke. The forward has a huge physical presence and it was important that he wasn’t encouraged on Saturday afternoon.
Right from the off Szczęsny looked to aggressively attack flighted balls into his box. The Pole is commanding in his area and this display was reminiscent of his man of the match performance against West Ham and Andy Carroll in December.
Coming off his line and claiming the majority of long balls, or at least putting Benteke off he allowed Per Mertesacker or Laurent Koscielny to win the ball in the air.
A dominant performance from Szczęsny on a huge stage nullified the biggest threat the opposition had. He has been under fire, has lost his place, and was thrust into the spotlight in a final. His response was superb, and even better was his confirmation that he would not be leaving the club he loves so much, saying on his official Facebook page “What a day! Thank you for coming and celebrating with us! Its been a long season for me but I promise to work my socks off to make it better next season and make all The Gunners around the world proud again!
“Also a massive Thank You to my team mates and the coaching staff at Arsenal FC for their incredible support during difficult times. And a big well done to the media who almost managed to convince people that I could acctually leave my home and the people I love! Well,you’re gonna have to put up with me for many many years.” [spelling mistakes his]
As Per usual
It wasn’t just Szczęsny. Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny dovetailed as perfectly as ever at the back.
The German won everything against Benteke in our box and even sealed the game with the third goal after losing the Belgian at an Arsenal corner. Tucked away gracefully with his shoulder, Mertesacker has been a rock all season, defended excellently once again, and deserved his Wembley goal.
Olivier Giroud’s goal, laid on by Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, summed up Saturday afternoon.
Good football, patient, clinical, and every single decision made by the manager was perfect. All three subs playing a part like that was more than fitting of a manager whose Cup Final gameplan was flawless.
By the time Aston Villa had two penalty shouts the game was dead and buried.
Gabriel Agbonlahor was fouled outside the box but Jack Grealish had a real shout, but both calls came to late to have any impact on the result.
Otherwise Villa were totally stifled. They didn’t register a shot on target and only managed two attempts in the whole 90 minutes. Our 16 efforts (nine on target) show just how dominant we were.
This Arsenal side is one that can control games defensively now. After the second goal we were happy to concede more possession and break with the power of Aaron Ramsey and precision of Mesut Özil.
Santi Cazorla orchestrated everything, and was simply magnificent.
Arsenal have found a fine balance between attack and defence. When to sit off, when to try and dominate the ball.
Next season comes another challenge. Can we balance the squad and attack for major honours on three or four fronts?
Arsène Wenger got everything right on Saturday, and has done so a lot this season.
Arsenal are the greatest club in FA Cup history; now is the time to make our mark on the Premier League once again.