Arsenal beat Chelsea at Wembley on Saturday to lift their 14th FA Cup, showing what they can do with a referee who isn’t hellbent on ruining their lives.
Arsenal were clearly the more nervous of the sides at the start of the game and that resulted in them playing more like they were in the Premier League than the FA Cup.
With seven minutes on the clock, they were a goal down and I started to feel like Arsenal’s pathetic side, devoid of fight or pride, had turned up to Wembley.
Although Chelsea’s goal was very well worked and Pulisic showed superb feet, he also highlighted the one significant weakness in Emi Martinez’s game – he goes down easier than he should, making it a simpler option to dink him compared to Bern Leno who stands up much better.
Slowly, however, as the half wore on, Arsenal found themselves. They were helped, no doubt, by some actual impartial and competent refereeing from Anthony Taylor. Well, mostly competent. OK, just not crap to Arsenal’s detriment, but to the opposition as well. I know, I’m as shocked as you.
Apart from not sending of Cesar Azpilicueta for his foul in the box that resulted in a penalty for Arsenal, he showed me how much I’ve been conditioned this season to expect the whistle every time an opposition player hits the ground, no matter the reason. Time and time again I expected him to blow but he waved play on only to lift the whistle to his lips for fouls on Arsenal players that we almost never see given.
For Chelsea to be on two yellows by half-time and Arsenal on none is practically unheard of, no matter who we play. It’s also worth noting that Azpilicueta’s hamstring would still be in one piece had he been sent off.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had stepped up to the spot when Arsenal were awarded a penalty that wasn’t overturned by VAR and, looking a little unsure himself, slotted it home with ease to level up for the side that wants his contract more.
From there, even the pitch seemed to turn in Arsenal’s favour, spinning the ball in fortuitous ways that benefited out attack. Confidence filled out the Arsenal players as they realised this was a fair fight, and they went into the break firmly on top of Chelsea.
The second half started and almost immediately Pulisic was through again. This time, however, as he pulled his shot wide he also pulled his hamstring.
That was the theme of the second half, Chelsea injuries. Along with Anthony Taylor’s officiating that saw some seriously dodgy calls go in Arsenal’s favour, not least with the second yellow for Kovaic which couldn’t be reviewed by VAR because it was a yellow, not a red, until it made his first yellow a red.
I don’t actually think Taylor remembered he’d already booked him.
The more the game wore on the more it all seemed to be lining up for Arsenal and falling apart for Chelsea. Aubameyang’s delightful dink to score his second and give Arsenal the lead was the icing on Arsenal’s FA Cup.
No matter how much the conversation will focus on the decisions of Taylor in the following days, make no mistake, Arsenal were the better side at Wembley.
From about the 25th minute they bossed the game and you can see that in the stats that show Chelsea didn’t have a single shot in the second half.
So, that’s 14 FA Cups in the bag now and Mikel Arteta is the first Arsenal player to win the trophy as both captain and manager.
Not bad for your first half season in management…not bad at all.