Fantastic Arsenal Win The FA Cup! (w/ Player Ratings)

The perfect end to the season with a perfect Arsenal performance!

Before the game I was, like many I suspect, that Aston Villa would be a big threat – especially when they beat Liverpool in the semi-final.

One concern I had was the team selection Arsene Wenger would go with, and in particular up front. Olivier Giroud hadn’t scored in his last 8 games and was in a slump in terms of form. Theo Walcott however was on fire, after scoring a blistering hat-trick against West Brom last weekend and creating the equaliser at Old Trafford, his confidence was sky high.

Fortunately, Arsene Wenger was brave (and I respect him for it) and selected Theo Walcott to start. A slightly controversial and surprising decision, given Arsene’s loyalty to his players and there is no doubt that Olivier Giroud has been excellent for Arsenal this season. But his form of late and Theo’s emergence gave the manager a tough choice to make and fortunately, he made it and it paid off big time.

The worry before the game was how Arsenal would start the game. Against Hull City in last seasons final, we started so slowly and found ourselves 2-0 after 20 minutes. It looked like Arsenal had learnt their lesson and started at a high tempo, pressuring Aston Villa right from the start.

The performance was really excellent, given the pressure of finals (and especially when you consider the last 5 FA Cup finals had been decided by a single goal) so to win 4-0 is something special, and sends out a message to our rivals for next season.

Our first goal when it came was completely deserved given the amount of possession and chances we had and it didn’t come until the 40th minute. A cross from the left hand side was headed down by Sanchez and bounced about 8 yards away from goal. With the ball dropping at a slightly awkward height there were only a couple of players who could have scored from there (Sanchez and Theo) and fortunately Theo was on the end of it and lashed it home with aplomb.

That goal was massive and settled our nerves and set us on our way. A 0-0 scoreline at half time would have meant it was anyone’s game but we ended up dominating a final which is very rare to see.

Sanchez is a player who doesn’t like to be left out and once again he made his own headlines and rifled a stunning shot past Shay Given who was left helpless. The power on the shot was unreal from such little back lift and the swerve on the ball made it impossible to save. Mertesacker scored Arsenal’s third and Olivier Giroud made it four with a cute finish at the near post from an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain cross.

At the end of the day, what we saw was a dominant Arsenal performance from a side who are much improved on last season. We might have won the FA Cup for the second season in a row but this year we were more confident and had the swagger of a side that knows it can do special things. It was interesting to note that when Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott and Per Mertesacker were interviewed after the match, all the talk was about how Arsenal will be competing for the title next season.

The players have just won the FA Cup, and they’re already focused and talking about next season.

And that can only be a good thing for Arsenal football club.

Player Ratings:

Wojciech Szczesny: 7/10
Didn’t have a huge amount to do but came out strongly for a few crosses and looked assured. Possibly his last game for the club?

Hector Bellerin: 8/10
Made the right back position his own and put in another solid performance both in defence and attack. Supported Aaron Ramsey well on the right hand side and kept Villa quiet on that side of the pitch.

Per Mertesacker: 8/10
The BFG was excellent at the back and lead with the team with passion in a real leaders performance. Did well to get on the scoresheet to wrap up a fantastic day for the captain.

Laurent Koscielny: 8/10
Again performed well alongside Mertesacker and kept Benteke quiet all afternoon. Did have a couple of chances to score the opening goal but overall very good.

Nacho Monreal: 8/10
One of the real success stories of this season, Monreal has become the first choice left-back and was solid in defence. Pushed forward at every opportunity, linking well with Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Özil.

Francis Coquelin: 9/10
For me our Man of the Match. He was outstanding throughout the game, but especially in the first half when the game was 0-0. One of the main reasons we kept a clean sheet, he won the ball with ease and dribbled out of trouble time and time again. Assured, composed, dedicated – his performance today was outstanding.

Santi Cazorla: 8/10
Asked to play slightly out of position in a slightly deeper role, Santi was pulling the strings and making Arsenal tick. He carved open Villa with his through balls and was calm and assured throughout the 90 minutes.

Aaron Ramsey: 7/10
Kept running for the team and had a couple of good changes to score. Things didn’t quite come off for him today but another solid and committed performance, and Aaron Ramsey is a player who always gives it his all and never hides.

Mesut Özil: 6/10
Did well in patches but couldn’t impose himself on the game as Arsene and the Arsenal fans would have liked. Did well to create a chance for Theo in the first half but after that faded, and was replaced on 77 minutes.

Alexis Sanchez: 8/10
Never stopped running and scored an absolute stunner on 50 minutes. Tracked back, made tackles and set the tempo for the team. Superb.

Theo Walcott: 8/10
Fully justified his team selection and caused the Villa defence all kinds of problems. Took his goal fantastically well and the importance of his goal was massive considering we missed a few clear cut chances before that.

Jack Wilshere (replaced Özil on 77′): 6/10
Helped see the game out and solid in midfield.

Olivier Giroud (replaced Walcott on ’77): 6/10
Clearly disappointed at not starting but didn’t sulk when introduced and took his goal well.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (replaced Sanchez on ’89): 7/10
Not on enough to make any real impression on the game – except for creating Arsenal’s fourth goal of course!

Congratulations To Chelsea Football Club

Well there we have it, the game ended in a 0-0 draw and forget about the mathematics, that’s the title going to Stamford Bridge.

So congratulations to Chelsea.

Even if Arsenal won the match, it would have still been pretty impossible to win the league. For a while now, the title has been destined to go to Chelsea and the big question wasn’t if but when.

The Chelsea players, lead by John Terry, punch the air at the final whistle and can you blame them? Making sure they didn’t lose against Arsenal was the last big hurdle they had to face and the got past it.

For me, a win against Chelsea was not to fight for the title, but to give the team confidence going into the final few games and to secure that coveted second place in the Premier League. We are a point behind Manchester City but have a game in hand, so hopefully we can get 3 points in that game and regain second spot.

So todays match and what can you say?

Chelsea defended like we know they can, and they’ve been doing this for years. If you need a clean sheet, then this Chelsea side can do it with no problems whatsoever. When they are setup to defend it is pretty much impossible to get through.

Two seasons ago when Chelsea got to the Champions League final using the same tactics, they were given all the plaudits for their approach. They got past teams like Barcelona and Bayern Munich to lift the trophy and personally I admired what they did. Chelsea are a team full of winners, and always have that winning mentality. They don’t care if they play good football or boring football, all they care about is winning trophies.

And today was the same. They only needed a draw (despite what Mourinho came out with in the pre-match press conference) and they played deep and tried to get us on the break.

To Arsenal’s credit, they usually failed against this Chelsea approach but whenever they did attack on the break, they showed maturity and took a couple of cheap bookings to make sure Chelsea didn’t score that sucker punch that they usually get at The Emirates.

It was a game that Arsenal probably would have lost in previous seasons – attacking for the winner and then conceding a goal on the break from the opposition – so a point and stretching our unbeaten run isn’t a terrible thing.

For all Arsenal’s attacking, you just knew there would be few clear cut changes to get a goal against a resilient Chelsea side and with minutes remaining, Arsenal fashioned that chance.

Some smart play from Alexis Sanchez on the left played in Nacho Monreal, who picked out Mesut Özil in the centre. With the german playmaker 3 yards away from goal, he completely miscued his shot and missed the ball completely.

THAT was the chance to score and take home all 3 points.

As it was, it wasn’t to be and Arsenal’s already slim chances to catching Chelsea disappeared. It was a valiant effort from Arsenal who never gave up hope of scoring that vital goal, but the goal was just out of our reach.

Arsenal can be proud of their performance because against a stubborn side like Chelsea who were hell bent on not conceding, we couldn’t have done much else. Some of our play was intricate and incisive but with no space to play that killer pass our task was a virtually impossible one.

Remember it’s not as if we failed to score against any side – we were up against probably the best defensive side (when setup like they did today) in world football. They’ve won many trophies that way and they’ve even won the Champions League against the best sides in Europe playing that way.

At the end of the day, Arsenal went for it and gave everything they had – and with a bit of luck (the Mertesacker and Özil chances in particular) we could have taken all 3 points.

It’s a credit to Arsenal and how respected they are by Chelsea that they needed to play like that today. They knew that if they gave Arsenal an inch today we would have beaten them this afternoon. For Chelsea to play so cautiously and almost be afraid of Arsenal, is a credit to how we’ve been performing recently.

That Was The Worst Arsenal Performance In 10 Years!

What do you say about that?

I have never been so angry and frustrated at an Arsenal performance in the last 10 years!

In the games when we got absolutely slaughtered against Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool last season, it was just comical. Today however it was just ridiculous. The performance level was unbelievably awful and coming away from a draw (and being minutes away from winning) was nothing short of a Christmas miracle.

It would be no exaggeration to say that Liverpool could have been 4-0 up at half time.

Arsenal were extremely wasteful, lethargic and looked completely lost. I cannot remember when we’ve played so bad. Against Newcastle it looked like we turned a corner but today it was painful to watch. We kept losing the ball and had no flow, passion or composure.

We panicked in possession and couldn’t string two passes together. If you looked at the statistics, Liverpool bend us over and sodomised us repeatedly over 90 minutes. If Liverpool could actually score goals, they could have had 7 or 8.

We drew 2-2 and it was down to a huge amount of luck. Liverpool completely dominated from the first minute and watching the game you knew that once Liverpool scored then it would be a complete white-wash. Arsenal lost the ball on a consistent basis and it was amazing that we lasted 45 minutes without conceding. Olivier Giroud lost possession with a lazy pass and The Iced Gem scored with a low shot into the bottom corner.

After that, it looked like we were in for a long afternoon but somehow, the Gods were looking down on us and we managed to score one of the least deserved equalisers in Premier League history.

Just before the break, Alexis Sanchez was tripped by Steven Gerrard. The Chilean clipped the ball into the box for Mertesacker to win, which was then headed back into the danger area by Mathieu Flamini. Mathieu Debuchy – the only Arsenal player to have a decent game – rose well and managed to score in the final seconds of the first half. Replays showed that the ball took a deflection off Martin Skrtel which wrong-footed Brad Jones.

A huge slice of luck for an Arsenal team who hadn’t been in the game at all.

The second half started and Liverpool attacked but couldn’t get through. After withstanding heavy Liverpool pressure finally Arsenal managed to string more than two passes together – and unbelievably Olivier Giroud scored. Kieran Gibbs drove forward and found Giroud, who over played a pass to Santi Cazorla. The little Spaniard somehow managed to retrieve the poor pass into the path of Giroud, who rifled the ball into the back of the Liverpool net between Brad Jones’s legs.

Three shots on target and two goals. Arsenal leading 2-1 gave a whole new meaning to smash and grab.

After that, we defended okay but repeatedly let Liverpool attack and attack and it was inevitable that they would eventually get through. A combination of luck and poor Liverpool finishing meant that we lasted until the 97th minute without conceding. But in the 98th minute, we gazed and watched while we let Skrtel rise high and smash in a header from a corner.

Why would you leave a player like that with a free header?

Today only Mathieu Debuchy, Santi Cazorla and Kieran Gibbs can hold their heads up high. The rest of the players were a complete disgrace. Chambers was all over the place, Oxlade-Chamberlain wouldn’t pass the fucking ball and Matheiu Flamini was running around like a headless chicken and almost costing us dearly – his poor positional sense let Coutinho pull the strings from deep over and over again.

Danny Welbeck and Alexis Sanchez both tried but looked completely lost – probably because they were expected to accommodate Olivier Giroud and played in unfamiliar positions. Olivier Giroud didn’t play well at all and looked like the shadow of the player he can be – he took his goal well but apart from that did nothing.

I have never seen Arsenal give away the ball as much as they did at Anfield today, it was unreal and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Our defending was as bad as it has ever been and Arsene Wenger can count his lucky stars that Liverpool were toothless in attack – if we had been playing Manchester City, Chelsea or even Manchester United today the score would have been in double figures – and that is no exaggeration.

When you consider we were minutes away from winning the game if we did manage to take all three points it would have been the most underserving victory in Arsene Wenger’s reign. Christmas had come early for Arsenal when they found themselves 2-1 up but even we managed to completely fuck that up in the end.

The game ended 2-2 and I don’t know if I should be happy that we managed to get a point from a game we should have convincingly lost, or frustrated because we played probably the worst Liverpool side in living memory and couldn’t put in a half respectable performance. If Arsenal played to their maximum we could have taken Liverpool to the sword but in the end we completely bottled it and this performance probably warranted a 5-1 scoreline than last seasons debacle.

Arsenal Shoot Themselves In The Foot But Salvage A Draw

What do you make of that?

It was the same old story for Arsenal fans – a game that we dominated in terms of possession, but couldn’t win. We took the lead early on with a Sanchez goal after 13 minutes but after that, we lacked urgency, desire and passion which is a far too common theme in these home games. If we’re not at the races, we simply go through the motions and it happens far too much.

Hull had a game plan, like most other teams visiting The Emirates have, and were happy to sit deep and get us on the break. You can’t blame teams for setting themselves up for that when the come to Arsenal because quite frankly, it’s a tactic that works well – and we have no answer for it.

Hull City were fortunate to equalise after Flamini looked to have been fouled and then they took the lead straight after the break and from then on it was all Arsenal. We had the vast majority of possession but couldn’t do anything about it. Apart from the equaliser from Welbeck and the late late chance for Gibbs at the death, I don’t think the Hull keeper had much to do.

The passing in the second half was pedestrian, which was worrying considering we needed an equaliser. Cazorla and Sanchez tried to make things happen but we didn’t have the urgency to players willing to shoot.

We pressed and pressed and pressed and finally, got through on 88 minutes. Sanchez waltzed his way through about 4 players with a clever dribble and picked out Welbeck with a fantastic through ball. Welbeck controlled the ball well and his finish was excellent.

After that, the fans were well behind the team and there seemed like a real chance that we could actually nick all 3 points. We had the ball in good positions but we couldn’t find the right final ball to take advantage of scoring the late equaliser. Kieran Gibbs had a late chance at the death but it was asking a lot for him to score from something which wasn’t even a half chance.

In the end, we manage to salvage a draw but we all know that when it comes down to it, that is not good enough.

Arsenal Clearly The Better Team As Lucky Chelsea Park The Bus

It was always going to be a big ask going to Stamford Bridge and after the humiliation of last season, Arsenal vastly improved on last years performance and deserved at least a point from this afternoon’s match.

Arsenal started with Flamini, Jack and Cazorla in midfield, with Welbeck supported by Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Özil. The more conservative formation worked well, and restricted a robotic Chelsea side to only a few half chances.

It was a close contest, with Arsenal looking much stronger defensively than they have been in recent big games. Then a piece of magic from Eden Hazard broke the deadlock.

Chelsea’s number ten waltzed past Flamini and Cazorla, and with Koscielny the last man making the decisive challenge and give the hosts a penalty. Koscielny received a yellow card when he could have perhaps picked up a red. Losing a man and a goal from the penalty would have meant the game was effectively over as a contest so we were fortunate we could still play the rest of the game with eleven men.

But after that though, Arsenal’s “luck” ran out.

Oscar made foul after foul and didn’t pick up a booking until four minutes until the end, and Gary Cahill almost took Alexis Sachez’s leg off with a reckless challenge and should have been a red card.

Then the biggest decision in the game proved decisive in the end.

A shot from Jack Wilshere was blocked by Cesc Fabregas in the box, but clearly by his hand. It wasn’t even a close call – Fabregas had his arms high in the air and the ball hit them. I don’t care if it’s intentional, it’s a penalty.

And that would have made it 1-1.

Once Chelsea scored from the penalty, they parked the bus.

Only one team wanted to actually play football and it wasn’t Chelsea. Arsenal were making all of the play, trying to score a goal and were faced with ten blue shirts in their way. Arsenal had some good passages of play, mainly through Jack Wilshere, but it was too much of an ask. Watching the way Chelsea set up shop, I wondered if any team could get through such defensive tactics.

Although hardly surprising given this is a Jose Mourinho side, you wonder if Chelsea fans like watching this kind of football?

Given a transfer budget which eclipses ours by a massive margin, it’s still amazing he still plays so negatively. Have ten men behind the ball and play off the break? You’d have thought a team like Chelsea would have more aspirations than that, but no, they like boring football that gets results.

Arsenal fans can be proud of their team today, as they gave everything. Wilshere, Flamini, Cazorla and Sanchez never gave up, and the back four were solid. The issue Arsenal had was Mesut Özil, who had a very bad day in the office.

At 1-0, with Arsenal needing a goal in the second half, the game was begging for Oxlade-Chamerlain to be introduced with at least half an hour left, and it should have been for the lethargic Özil.

But what does Arsene Wenger do?

He introduces Oxlade-Chamberlain with only 25 minutes left, and takes off Santi Cazorla!

Alongside Jack Wilshere, Santi was our most creative player – and added to that, he actually tracks back and defends, unlike Özil.

I understand Özil is our record signing but Arsene needs to recognise when Özil needs to be taken off. It is ridiculous to think a player can always have a great game and Özil was a million miles away from that. Taking off Cazorla is something which is mind-boggling, and even the player himself was mystified as to why he was hauled off.

Obviously Arsene was hoping that Özil would come up with that piece of magic, or the final pass that would make the difference but ultimately, he was slow, lazy and didn’t contribute a single thing to our performance. You don’t care if a player is in a bad patch and isn’t in form, as long as they give 110%. I’ve always supported players like Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere when a lot of Arsenal fans were slagging them off because they may not have had a good game but they bust their balls off in an Arsenal shirt.

That’s all we want to see when players put on the red and white of Arsenal so to see a player waltz through the game without a care in the world is painful to watch.

On Özil, my thoughts during the game sum him up:

The game in end showed Chelsea for who they are – a functional team that will sacrifice football and the beautiful game for results. A side which is boring to watch, and a team full of massive cunts. Any respect I had for Cesc Fabregas has well and truly disintegrated after his actions on the pitch.

It didn’t take him long to become a “true” Chelsea player.