Arsenal won their 14th FA Cup against Chelsea on Saturday, qualifying for the Europa League group stages in the process.
Arsenal got off to a nightmare start in the final, with Christian Pulisic chipping a close-range shot home for 1-0. Chelsea dominated the opening 15 minutes, but Mikel Arteta’s side found their resolve and fought their way back into the game after that.
Nicolas Pepe scored an excellent goal which was unfortunately ruled out for an offside much earlier in the build-up, before Arsenal won a penalty for a foul on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Aubameyang stepped up to the spot and converted for 1-1.
Suddenly in control of the match, Arsenal really should have taken the lead before half-time. Chelsea got a bit of a foothold again in the second period, before Aubameyang struck again with a lovely chip of his own.
Mateo Kovacic picked up a second yellow card not long afterwards, and Arsenal saw the remainder of the match out against 10 men. It was the perfect end to a pretty terrible season, and an end which inspires hope in Arteta’s project for the club.
Let’s have a look at our Arsenal player ratings for the match.
- Emi Martinez 9 – This was Emi’s day, after 10 years of waiting for a cup final. He made a couple of good saves early on, and plenty of high claims near the end. His distribution was good and the timing of his catch inside the box was perfectly planned – ahem.
- Rob Holding 7 – Chelsea made a very clear decision to target Holding’s side, with the defender only recently coming in after Shkodran Mustafi’s injury. It worked well for a while, but eventually, he came back into the game with a few tackles and clearances.
- David Luiz 7 – Solid enough defensively, probably faced the least action of the three, though. Only one of his 11 long balls found its target, but it was one of those high-risk high-reward strategies that you only need to come off once or twice.
- Kieran Tierney 8.5 – Played the inch-perfect ball to Aubameyang to win the penalty. Continued his very positive run of performances out of position at centre-back. Perhaps pushed up on Pulisic a little too quickly for the Chelsea goal, but it was a desperate moment.
Midfield and Wing-Backs
- Hector Bellerin 8.5 – Big improvement going forward, as he linked up with Pepe really nicely and his positive run bombing on in the second half led to the winning goal.
- Dani Ceballos 8 – Along with Xhaka, a little at fault for Chelsea’s goal, letting Pulisic roam free behind them. Better after that, in an intense midfield battle. Won a few free-kicks and played some nice long passes.
- Granit Xhaka 8 – A couple of early lapses defensively, but very few mistakes after the opening 20 minutes. Did really well in the air, and drew a red card for Kovacic after taking one very hefty challenge and one comparatively soft one.
- Ainsley Maitland-Niles 8.5 – Another strong showing at left-wing-back after his performance in the same role against Manchester City. Created a good chance for Aubameyang within the opening three minutes. Made a couple of key defensive interventions.
- Nicolas Pepe 9 – Unlucky to have his goal wiped out by an offside that had nothing to do with him or the assister, but made up for it by assisting the winner. Looked really sharp all game, winning three free-kicks and seven of his 11 duels. Also tracked back to make three tackles. Just the performance we were looking for in a cup final from the big-money signing.
- Alexandre Lacazette 8.5 – The facilitator of the attack, rather than the one finishing chances, as so often recently. He allowed Pepe and Aubameyang to shine on either side of him.
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 9.5 – The star of the show. Aubameyang won the penalty, scored the penalty, and arguably made the winning goal for himself as well, psyching Zouma out before chipping home on his weak foot. You can’t ask for much more from a forward. He could’ve had a hat-trick by heading home early on, but I’m only saying that because he sets the standards so high.
None of the substitutes were on the pitch long enough for a rating. If we’re being honest, they all came on with pretty much the express purpose of wasting some time.
Eddie Nketiah came on first, with eight minutes of normal time remaining. He created one chance in the final minutes. Sokratis Papastathopoulos replaced David Luiz after an apparent injury and blocked a shot.
Sead Kolasinac didn’t get a touch, as the most cynical of the three substitutions. Arsenal chose not to make the substitution whilst Pedro was receiving treatment, waiting for the game to restart so they could stop it again. Just what we needed to kill the game.