Arsenal 2 – 1 Chelsea
There can be no complaints about the result. The best team on the day won, with a performance born of adversity embracing the best in technique.
All of the players produced the goods when needed; no criticism of any at all.
Quite simply, Arsenal had more of everything: heart, desire, technique, and crucially, goals.
And for me, one player encapsulated the reasons why we are still celebrating Arsenal winning the FA Cup: Per Mertesacker. Alexis won the award, Ramsey the winner but having played just 38 minutes or whatever it was all season, the BFG came up with a captain’s performance.
The makeshift back three – the callow youth, the match rusty and the outstanding left back – marshalled Chelsea into dead-ends on all bar just one occasion. Held together by the glue of Mertesacker’s experience, the trio were outstanding.
Rob Holding laid an early marker by coming off best with Diego Costa in a moment of rough and tumble. The Spanzilian lashed out and in that moment, showed his opponents that he was riled. Not at the races for most of the afternoon, he was rendered impotent until the latter stages when he grabbed an ill-deserved equaliser.
Special mention as well for Anthony Taylor. Much-maligned beforehand – with good reason, it must be said – he produced the best performance of his career on the biggest stage. Every big decision, he was right and even the little ones. I don’t think any bookings can be argued with nor did he miss anything of note.
Which is more than can be said for the lino who tried to over-rule Alexis’ opened. Taylor dismissed the appeals for handball and after deliberation, rightly awarded the goal so calmly claimed by the Chilean. It was the perfect start.
Boy Who Cried Wolf
Psychologically, it put Chelsea on the backfoot. Despondent at the goal, relief at the offside flag, back to despondency; not a good cycle for anyone, irrespective of their profession.
It could have been worse. No-one can explain the bending of the laws of physics which saw Cahill flick the ball off the line from Özil’s effort, with the back of his heel. Nor will Aaron Ramsey ever understand how the ball rebounded off the post from Welbeck’s header onto his chest, only to hit the post once again.
The Chelsea goal had the spirit of Peter Bonetti guarding it, living the charmed nine lives of the Cat.
Özil struck the woodwork later on, while Courtois was by far the busier of the two goalkeepers but when Ospina was needed, he was there. Could he have done more with Chelsea’s goal? I don’t care; it’s about the saves he made when it mattered and there were a couple of vital ones.
But Arsenal’s dominance of the match crystalised in Victor Moses’ dismissal. He wriggled into the penalty area and with opportunity beckoning, he fell to the earth. The ignominy of a second yellow card and forever labelled a diver. Dismissed in the FA Cup for the shameful act; a reputation tarred.
Bravo to the referee for not being conned.
And to the Arsenal XI for the spirited and quick response to Chelsea’s undeserved equaliser. Three minutes from the restart, and with the Blues psyche already geared toward penalties, Sanchez found Giroud on the left, and from his excellent cross, Ramsey arrived with a well-timed run and calmly taken header.
There was no coming back from that.
Post-match, Arsène praised the team:
“You cannot get two tougher opponents, but we produced two outstanding performances.
“That is what makes me particularly proud, because no one gave us a chance at Wembley and we responded with attitude and class. We had an outstanding performance from the first minute onwards.
“This team has suffered, but they’ve united and responded. They showed strength and unity and played spectacular football.”
And not one argument with any of that will be brokered by me.
The Big Boss Groove
Nor is there any reason why Arsène should escape praise. My view on him and his situation hasn’t changed but against a backdrop of key players missing through injury and suspension, he fashioned a belief in the XI that they could win. He planted the seeds and they ran with it.
His reward? A place in the record books, possibly in perpetuity, as the single most successful FA Cup winning manager. The magic hat was found and dusted off yesterday afternoon. Bien joué, monsieur.
No more need be said by me today. It was the best performance of the season and I for one, am still enjoying it.
Had I been able to post yesterday, an FA Cup final soundtrack was to be part of it. I’ll add it today instead.