Arsenal are back to wining trophies and setting records. In the build up to this game I had been feeling somewhat apprehensive but at the same time exited, It was, I suppose, the usual mixing bowl of emotions that only a cup final can throw up. I was expecting a difficult match, the ease and complete comfort with which Villa dispatched of Liverpool in the semi final had stoked up a simmering fear of what seemed like an inevitable tragic end to a season which had rebounded back to an acceptable level for Arsenal football club. While not reaching the lofty pre season expectations of most following last seasons cup win, it was certainly higher than the fears of most on New Year's day. We had our season back on track but only winning the cup would make this a successful season, and Aston Villa stood in the way of that. No matter how disappointingly their league season ended, the relief of Premier League survival, the passion of a new manager and the hope of winning their first F.a cup since 1957 seemed to me like the perfect ingredients for stubborn resistance at the very least. Besides the last time a team won the final by more than one goal was in 2004, when Man United beat league one Millwall 3-0. In the end both my hopes and worries were blown away by a fantastic Arsenal performance, who ran out 4-0 winners.
As I am sure you are all aware by now, I am not a fan of writing conventional match reviews, as you can get that anywhere. Besides I'm not quite sure what you are doing here if you have not managed to watch the match by now anyway. So I'll just go over a couple of things that I found very interesting about the game. The first of which being the inclusion of Theo Walcott in the starting line up. The manager was faced with a number of difficult decisions, for example whether to start Wilshere following a string of encouraging cameo appearances, but this was arguably the most difficult choice to make. It seems Theo's hat-trick the week prior coupled with the extra space on the Wembley pitch were the decisive factors. It proved to be an inspired decision, which really maximised the teams fluidity, which was used to constantly pull defenders out of position.
The best example of this increased movement in forward areas was the first goal. Sanchez and Walcott had swapped positions with the Chilean moving central while the Englishman moved out to the left. The Villa defence were unsure how to handle the situation. Sure enough Walcott punished this indecisiveness, as the ball came into the box it had been half cleared and fell just right on the left hand side of the box for Theo to volley home, you guessed it with his left foot. It was an excellent finish from arguably the club's best finisher at present. Perhaps the time has come for Walcott's prolonged chance centrally, certainly with 4 goals in his last two games starting up top, which was half of Arsenal's total goal haul in those matches, the stats point to that fact also.
I was also impressed with Arsenal defensively. Sure you can point out that Villa never really turned up on the day, but I am a big believer that the reason why teams do not randomly turn up is due to the other teams excellence, not the team in questions deficiencies, they still have to be punished on the day regardless. Alright, maybe if the keeper is throwing the ball in his own net or you play like Q.P.R did at Man City a couple of weeks ago then you can say it was due to the other teams general uselessness. I'm surprised uselessness is an actual word, it really doesn't sound right, does it? Anyway back to my point, it seemed Villa's
only main point of attack was Benteke. They tried on numerous occasions to hit the ball into the box, and Szczesny dealt with that very well. It was a clear tactic for the keeper to come and collect the ball on every possible opportunity to limit Benteke's aerial threat throughout the match. For the most part this tactic worked, there were a couple of dodgy moments, but this is to be expected. Even when the ball was played into feet our centre backs and Coquelin were fantastic in mopping up any danger. So, overall, well played Szczesny, I must confess, I have been his biggest critic at times this season.
I've got another confession to make, I did not actually manage to watch the game live at the time. I was up at the Foo fighters concert at Slane Castle. They were excellent and would recommend them, if you are wondering. It was torture at times however, well, besides the getting drenched by the rain and missing a bus which meant sitting around in Mc Donalds in Dublin until 7 in the morning, it was difficult getting any sort of update on the match. All I had to go by were texts from a somewhat dodgy source, while at the same time battling my phone's low running battery. There was also a large Arsenal flag at the front, however, which was constantly waving so that did keep me going.
Yes, I know that it's not the best picture, but whoever had that flag it was greatly appreciated. I did manage to get the goals right before my phone died, which made the waiting around more relaxing and less time pressing. The first thing I did when I got home was watch the match, and even though I had seen reports of our domination, I was really surprised by how strong the performance was. It will certainly be a cup final I will not forget. Not that I can truly say I remember watching it live at the time!
The very first sentence of this post stated that Arsenal are back to winning trophies and setting records. So let's get back to that. Remember during the Invincibles era it seemed like the team were setting records every week? Well lets hope this is the beginning of a truly new era of brilliance. As I'm sure you are aware, we are now the outright leading F.a cup winners with a total of 12 wins from another record setting of 19 finals. We are also only the fourth club to have won the cup consecutively on more than one occasion (2002 and 2003, 2014 and 2015).
Arsene Wenger has become the joint most successful winner of the old cup with 6 wins (half of Arsenal's overall wins), George Ramsey, ironically of Aston Villa, also claimed 6 wins back in the late 1890's and early 1900's. Arsene is also only the second manager to have won the cup consecutively on more than one occasion, (see the years above). He also has a fantastic record in F.a cup finals, having won 6 of 7. Here's a couple of bonus facts, the last time Arsenal won the F.a cup two years in a row they went unbeaten the next season and more importantly, obviously, is the fact that Per Mertesacker now has 3 Wembley goals, after scoring in the final and in last years semi final. He also scored the winner for Germany against England in a friendly last year.
It seems ironic that the curtain raiser for next season, will see Arsenal square off with League winners Chelsea for the community shield. Let's hope Wenger can get his first win over Mourinho and set the trend for a strong title challenge next season. I'm already looking forward to that match, after all it could be a fourth trophy in two seasons for a team and manager that do anything but win.
Overall I think this has been a good season for us, on top of retaining the cup we have managed to get the winning 'big games' monkey off our backs, with 2 wins and a draw in our last 3 Manchester games and a 4-1 thrashing of Liverpool proof of that. We have to progress from here now, we are not the finished article by any stretch of the imagination, but I think we are close now. Let's strengthen the team in the summer and go on from there. Next season a strong title challenge is a must, 12 points off the leaders is still not good enough. We should be looking at making it past the Champions League last 16 also. I am confident we can do that and I am looking forward to next season positively. The F.a cup has to be the start, more than anything this cup win has to make us Premier League contenders, there is so much promise around the club at the moment, let's hope we don't look back in years to come at this team as the big pretenders.
Right that about does it, let me know what you think in the comments. I hope to do some stuff over the summer also, so keep an eye out for more.
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Subjectively, Cosmic Kid.