THE FA Cup – Played THE ARSENAL WAY
By now we all know the result of the game, but beforehand there was high tension, as we weren’t sure what the team was going to be?
Finally it was announced about 45 minutes before kick off. Would it be Giroud, or would it be Walcott? Would it be Ospina or would it be Szczesney? In the end Arsene Wenger went for Walcott as the central striker, and with Szcesney in goal.
So the team was: Szczesney; Monreal; Koscielny; Bellerin; Coquelin; Cazorla; Alexis; Ozil; Ramsey; Walcott.
The scene was set. We had attacking lineup with a lot of pace, but we were always going to be vulnerable to a counter-attack from Aston Villa. Many of the commentators thought it was going to be a close game because we might not play a top game. I took the view early on this week that we should play the attackers in the team that played the week before, against West Bromwich, and won so comprehensively.. The reason for that was simple, we needed pace, and we needed to be unpredictable. That I think we achieved as the game unfolded.
The assumption was that it was a 4-2-3-1 formation, but the reality rarely matched those positions.
For a start Ramsey was not seen wide right very often. Walcott and Alexis interchanged, while Ozil moved around in his usual fashion. Add to the mix Monreal supporting Alexis regularly down the line, and Cazorla moving in and out, wide and central, forward and deep. Ramsey made some penetrating from deep, and Bellerin was always on hand down the right.
In the opening few minutes it was clear that our passing game was going to be quick and dynamic. This proved to be the key to winning the game. With Walcott upfront interchanging with Alexi’s, and Ozil providing key passes we always looked dangerous. But the puppetmaster was Santi Cazorla. He was the one who provided the passes from the back and kept moving around and always making himself available to receive and recycle it quickly. Alongside him was Coquelin. And he was second in the stats for the most passes,and with a high success rate. With that pair at the back we had a wonderful platform to move the forwards around. However despite numerous shots and some splendid saves from Shay Given, it was 40 minutes before we had a breakthrough. It came from a lovely passing move involving Coquelin who passed out wide to Theo Walcott. He then played a perfect ball inside for Monreal to race on to near the by line, and he quickly chipped across into the centre which was met by Alexis Sanchez, who saw the space about halfway inside the box. and headed it in that direction. Walcott typified the off ball movement that was so key, did not stop to admire his inch perfect pass to Monreal, instead he switched inside and made for the space that Alexis had spotted. Coming in at speed, he was off the ground when he lashed the ball low and hard with his left foot, and squeezed it in at the near post. The ‘keeper had absolutely no chance because his view was blocked by two players and only saw it at the very last second. A superb opening goal, and deserving of all the effort that had gone before..
We even managed to achieve a more possibilities in the last five minutes of the first half, but the score stayed at one nil.
In previous matches we have tended to favour fade a little towards the end of the second half, and I was worried about that on this big Wembley pitch. I needn’t have. I expected Villa to come out and undo the damage that they had allowed to happen in the first half. They did not have long to wait before their fate was sealed. This was an Alexis Sanchez special, as he moved inside and hit a wonder strike from 35 yards, which turned and twisted in flight, and kissed the underside of the crossbar as it flew into top of the goal. A goal that is now been said to be one of the best FA Cup goal in recent years, if not of all time. That goal was created partly by the movement of Monreal who cut in behind of him as Alexis got the ball, and took away two defenders. In fact most of Arsenal’s attacks was all about movement off the ball, and none better than this example by Monreal. I could also mention that Theo Walcott had moved out to the wide left and allowed Sanchez to move inside the first goal. And it was this movement between players that left the Villa defence very confused.
Our third goal came from a corner, which we had several, but this time the corner came in and was met by Per Mertersacker, albeit off his shoulder. Nevertheless, a goal is a goal. And that really sealed the game for Vllla, who never quite got to grips with us at any time, and as the game wore on you could see the fight had gone out of them. Token last goal, which was set up beautifully by Oxlade-Chamberlain, who had only come a few minutes before. He took the ball beyond the line of the last defenders, crossed it straight across in front goal, but it was met with perfect timing by Giroud, who stepped in and scored with the outside of his left boot, to beat the keeper with a trademark finish at the near post.
That made it 4-0, and full time was called shortly afterwards. Then the celebrations began, for the Gunner’s fans at least..
Arsene Wenger can take great credit for selecting the team he did. It would not have been easy for him to leave out a player like Jack Wilshire who played equally well as Theo Walcott in the previous game, but he opted for Aaron Ramsey instead. Probably for the better defence he might provide. As it turned out he had less defending to do than in previous games. He too, was unlucky in front of goal, having hit the post and had near misses. But like all the rest of the team he can be proud of his contribution. Another who could be particularly proud of his contribution was Woijech Szczesney. I saw when they were introducing the game on television, in the background Ospina was giving Szczesney a series of balls crossed in just towards the edge of the box, to help get him in the mood for clearing balls meant for Benteke’s head, and it proved very very useful. Apart from one ball which he didn’t quite get to over the crowd of players, but that came to naught, he never looked like making an error in front of goal, and so kept the clean sheet we all hoped he would. Per Mertersacker and Laurent Koscielny were also in imperious form in the centre of defence. Monreal was a real clever move by the manager, as he is taken up a role similar to what Sagna did when he was playing at right back. And that is receiving a ball kick out by the goalkeeper. Since he has been playing at centre half he has really improved his game at full-back. And it it is this heading ability which came to notice when he cut out several cross field balls that were aimed at at their wide players. But also as I mentioned, kicks from the goalkeeper. At right back Hector Bellerin was his usual forceful self going forward and always provided support for the attack. His only blemish in this game was the possibility of giving a penalty away, when he pulled down Jack Grealish. However, I think there was a technicality which may have prevented it being called a penalty, as neither player were actually on the pitch, as shown by the replays. I’m not sure if that is correct in the laws of the game, but I suspect it might be? There was another penalty shout when Frances Coquelin made the slightest contact with the ball, but also tripped up Gabby right on the edge of the penalty area. It look like a penalty at first showing, definitely a free kick, but the referee gave nothing … except a yellow card for protesting. It couldn’t happen to a nicer player …tic
However, given that Aston Villa only had two shots on target throughout the entire game it shows what a great game the whole defence did in keeping them out, so I think these two little blemishes can be somewhat overlooked, and were not punished by the referee in any case.
So history was made and Arsene Wenger has now won equally the most FA cups. Perhaps more importantly Arsenal have now overtaken Manchester United in winning the most FA cups.This was their 12th win. Compared with the pressure last year of just winning a piece of silverware, this was much easier on their shoulders and they played with great confidence.
We all hope now that they will go on from this into next season and be a real force for the title race. Really there’s no reason why they shouldn’t. The team has great unity and most of the players who played today will be there next season. I feel, but even if some do depart, we do have some splendid up-and-coming players that will press for places in the squad.
There will be a course a clamour from some quarters to improve the squad, but I don’t think there will be many players coming in to disrupt the unity which they have got at this moment in time.
All in all it was a triumph for tactical superiority. Every player at the top of their game. The result of which, made it one of the best finals that has been seen for a long long time. The movement of the players off the ball, receiving the ball with instant control, passing the ball accurately and quickly was what made it spectacularly good for Arsenal.
it was after all, played the Arsenal way.