Arsenal made history on Saturday, winning the FA Cup for a record 12th time. They began their 2012/13 campaign one cup win behind rivals Manchester United, but after successful cup runs in two consecutive seasons, they now boast unmatched success in the competition.
— The FA (@FA) May 30, 2015
This past week has revealed a darker side to football, with the events in Zurich dominating the media. Saturday’s cup final helped to reinstall faith in the beautiful game with an honest display of passion from the fans, players and managers. Just less than 90,000 supporters descended on Wembley Stadium to witness Arsenal completely outclass Aston Villa in what turned out to be one of the most one-sided cup finals in recent years.
Captain Per Mertesacker led celebrations and, of course, social media erupted. The pride of Arsenal players – past and present – was clear to see. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain even tweeted a video he filmed on his phone of the moment The Gunners lifted the trophy, which can be seen below.
The Gunners started the game well – dominating possession and controlling play – which really set the tone for the entire match. They never looked like losing. Jack Grealish, Fabian Delph and Tom Cleverley saw little of the ball, making it almost impossible for a revitalised Christian Benteke to cause any sort of damage given the lack of service.
Arsene Wenger – who has taken his fair share of criticism in his time managing Arsenal for what some perceive as a lack of tactical flexibility – got it spot on, resulting in a textbook display of control and dominance throughout the match. His first big call was opting to start the in-form Theo Walcott ahead of Olivier Giroud. This was a bold decision which could have come under massive scrutiny had the game turned out differently.
The decision showed his intent to play fast-paced football from the first minute to the last. Walcott’s agility troubled Villa’s central defensive partnership of Ron Vlaar and Jores Okore and in the initial stages of the match it was clear to see the pair would have their work cut out for them. Walcott found himself in good areas but, after a crucial block from Kieran Richardson, many fans may have wondered if it would be one of those days. However, five minutes prior to half-time, Walcott beat Shay Given at his near post with a powerful yet well-placed finish, giving Arsenal a well-deserved lead at the interval.
Villa’s hopes of launching any kind of comeback after half-time were crushed by Alexis Sanchez. The talismanic figure topped off an incredible debut season with a sensational strike some five minutes after the break, further extending his impressive record at Wembley. It was his fifth goal in four games at the stadium, confirming his ability to perform at his best in big occasions.
Arsenal have always been known for playing attractive football, but some have questioned their capacity to perform at crucial times. This final epitomised Arsenal’s progress in that respect, showcasing a well-rounded, clinical display. We have witnessed a change in mindset, led in part by the likes of Sanchez, Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil. It seems that Arsenal’s days of possession football with no reward are behind them. A controlled, yet more direct approach is paying dividends.
So what now for Arsenal? This season can now be labelled as a success after more silverware and an accomplished league campaign. The players have already been clear in their own expectations for next season, with a Premier League title in their sights. From what we have seen of the Gunners in the latter half of this season, this is more than achievable and at odds of 9/2 at the time of writing with betfair to win the title next season, many now see this as a clever bet.