Arsenal 4 – 0 Aston Villa
1 – 0 Walcott (40)
2 – 0 Sanchez (50)
3 – 0 Mertesacker (62)
4 – 0 Giroud (90+3)
There’s no movie clip to lead in with today; the joy on Theo Walcott’s face tells you everything that you need to know. Fears of a slow start were batted away within seconds and a performance of outrageous confidence brought about the most comprehensive victory in an FA Cup final since Manchester United did the same to Chelsea twenty-one years ago.
It’s was complete; solid defence, industrious artistry in midfield and sharp attacking instincts. It was a performance of which the players should be proud because the supporters sure as hell are. I would tender the view that it was the best by any Arsenal side in any final and it isn’t the euphoria of the moment which, I have to say, I’m grateful has lasted a lot longer than the ill-effects of yesterday’s alcohol.
In the clutches of the media, Arsène batted away talk of transfer windows and captured the mood perfectly,
The quality of the performance was outstanding today and it was a good advert for the FA Cup because we played in a very convincing way. I cannot fault one player – everyone was absolutely outstanding.
We started strong, stayed strong and finished strong. That is what you ideally want but you do not always get it, but today we got it.
The only surprise was that it took forty minutes for the breakthrough to arrive. By the time Theo Walcott arrowed in the shot to break the deadlock, there was a litany of last-ditch defending and last-grasp goalkeeping, bound together with the yolk of wayward finishing.
And yet there was never a sense that Arsenal were going to pay for them; the midfield contained Villa on the occasional forays and the defence restricted them to a cross that Szczesny dealt with comfortably. That was the height of Villa’s attacking threat, the only clip in the Arsenal penalty area in the BBC’s online highlights is the Pole’s fist powering through to get the ball.
It leaves you marvelling at the comprehensive nature of the victory. Still.
Notoriously slow starters, Arsenal were bright and lively from the start. Walcott and Sanchez intermingled and responded to Cazorla’s Man of the Match prompting…everyone did. The movement was sharp, support from midfield strong and as the back four squeezed the play into the Villa half for much of the opening forty-five minutes. For the biggest game, Arsenal produced their most comprehensive, complete performance.
That’s the joy of the occasion, I think. Yes, you want to see Arsenal arms lifting the FA Cup aloft but to do so in such an authoritative manner defies the usual convention of permitting the losers to point to one moment, an incident upon which the outcome hinged. Neither of the penalty claims when they were trailing by three goals affected the outcome; neither had legs either in my view, they were the shouts of desperation. In their position, we would have done the same.
Tim Sherwood’s post-match comments summed it up, when his disappointment in his own team recognised that Arsenal had stopped them playing,
“I don’t think we played well but you have to give credit to Arsenal as well. They didn’t let us play well.”
His use of “well” at the end was entirely superfluous.
Fittingly, Arsenal’s win was confirmed with Alexis’ spectacularly brilliant finish. Jack Wilshere was seen rummaging through his bag to hand over the Goal of the Season trophy he had purloined in the eyes of many outside the club; Alexis’ was on a different planet entirely. I can’t remember a better cup final goal although I am sure than anyone whose goal has proved decisive will dispute that contention.
His was a thoroughly impish performance, one which underlined his claim to one of the Player of the Season awards was undone only by the absence of the Premier League trophy. He’ll have to content himself with just the club’s version.
The third and fourth goals signalled the gradual deflation of Villa. The opening brace had been the pin pricks which began silently letting the air out of The Villains baloon but Mertesacker’s minimalist movement to head home off his own shoulder and Giroud’s unmarked amble to the edge of the six-yard area underlined the complete psychological dismantlement Arsenal’s performance induced.
For the club and manager it was a day when the writers of the record books were troubled into dipping their quills into the wells. To both, we’ll drink a toast because any argument that Wenger picked the wrong right back or left midfielder are redundant. To Arsène’s credit, he got everything right on the day and plaudits are thoroughly deserved. Not qualified, just quite simple, straightforward and unreserved.
Records are made to be broken and that can happen next season when having won the pre-season shindig, Arsenal will be fighting to win the first Emirates FA Cup. No doubt the FA won’t have any issue with allowing Arsenal to parade both trophies around the pitch…