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.
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!