Arsenal v Aston Villa
Kick off: May 30th, 2015 17:30 BST
Arsenal retained the FA Cup trophy after producing a sumptuous display against Aston Villa at Wembley, running out 4-0 winners.
There was much talk about last season’s final given the similarities in the predicament we faced against Aston Villa, playing a Premier League side in the bottom half of the table in an unpredictable final.
Wenger also had many decisions to make in terms of the lineup and made a brave choice to start Theo Walcott through the middle ahead of Olivier Giroud. The Englishmen paid back the faith shown in him with an effective performance.
There seemed to be a determination in the team to take control of the final early on and that is exactly what we did. Walcott started brightly and should’ve put us ahead, but Kieran Richardson produced a stunning block to deny us.
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The domination continued as Santi Cazorla dominated the game from deep and our passing slowly sapped the energy from Tim Sherwood’s men.
Walcott’s pace stretched their defence and the space in the middle of the pitch was vacant for our players to control possession.
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Shortly before half time, we took the lead with a wonderful finish from Walcott after Alexis Sanchez leaped to keep the ball alive in the area. The goal came after a slight tactical switch and while coming in from the left, Walcott smashed home.
Walcot vindicated Wenger’s choice to start him in his preferred role and his finish personified the technique youngsters should learn when striking the ball.
Similar to the goals we suffered in the big games last year, we hit Aston Villa with another sucker punch immediately after half-time with what can only be described as one of the best goals in an FA Cup final.
If there was any doubt that Alexis should be named our player of the year, there can be no such debate following this strike. Cutting in on his favoured right foot, the Chilean smacked a swirling effort in off the bar – it was past Shay Given in a flash.
We underwent a session of keep-ball following our second goal and the belief was slowly drifting from Aston Villa with each passing minute.
The defence stood tall too and the fact that Villa didn’t register a shot on target illustrates how dominant we were all over the pitch.
However, our third came soon enough and with much of the debate surrounding how we were going to counter Christian Benteke’s aerial threat in our box, the Belgian was outmanoeuvred by Per Mertesacker in Aston Villa’s penalty area as the German headed home.
As Wenger prepared a double substitution, the soon-to-depart Walcott missed a glaring opportunity to seal the final but skewed wide after attempting a ‘Thierry Henry’ finish. Aaron Ramsey delivered a stunning pass to send Walcott through.
The substitutions of Olivier Giroud and Jack Wilshere, coupled with a shift in formation seemed to halt our momentum. Wenger went with a three-man midfield after he withdrew Mesut Ozil and Villa started entering our half more consistently.
Gabby Agbonlahor ran straight at the heart of out defence and with the protecting Francis Coquelin trailing behind him, the Frenchman tried to concede a foul at the edge of our box. However, referee John Moss waved play on, Villa fans were left fuming.
As the minutes trickled down, late substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was keen to get in on the act and after settling himself with a few touches, he delivered a sensational assist for Giroud.
The Frenchman produced his trademark finish at the near post with the outside of his left boot and polished the scoreline – giving it an emphatic look.
The feeling remains different in this cup final, the pressure of the nine-year wait wasn’t hanging over us and we came into the game in good shape.
However, back-to-back FA Cup isn’t a feat to be sniffed at and we are now the most decorated side in the history of the most illustrious domestic cup competition in the world.