Arsenal’s No. 14 Delivers the Club’s 14th FA Cup
Final Result: Arsenal (Aubameyang 28′, 67′) 2-1 Chelsea (Pulisic 6′)
Arsenal XI (3-4-3): Martinez; Holding, D. Luiz (Sokratis 88′), Tierney (Kolasinac 113′); Bellerin, Xhaka, Ceballos, Maitland-Niles; Aubameyang, Lacazette (Nketiah 82′), Pepe
Arsenal went into the FA Cup final against Chelsea knowing that anything less than a victory would be more than enough to grant them passage to the Europa League, a competition that the Gunners featured for three consecutive seasons. They came up against the same opponents in the finals of the competition last season, but Eden Hazard was in the form of his life as Chelsea tore Arsenal apart. thereby blowing the Gunners’ chance of featuring in the Champions League.
With the way the Gunners began the campaign under Unai Emery up until his unceremonious departure in December 2019, it’s fair to say that the FA Cup was the one competition that Mikel Arteta had his full grip on, starting with the narrow win over Leeds United, before the away win at recently relegated Bournemouth. This followed a routine win against Portsmouth and Dani Ceballos inspired a late winner against Sheffield United leading the Gunners to Wembley against the FA Cup defending champions and sure-fire favorites, Manchester City. That was one of the most disciplined performances I witnessed from the lads and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s sheer class proved to be the difference in just his first FA Cup this season. Cometh the hour, cometh the man, I guess.
The FA Cup final match against Chelsea was expected to be an intense affair, bearing in mind that they white washed the in-form Manchester United to earn a place in the finals. Arsenal and Chelsea met in the same round three seasons ago with Per Mertesacker playing with what proved to be his best match in Arsenal colors that afternoon. The Gunners didn’t have the most auspicious of starts with Olivier Giroud being the scourge yet again with a neat flicked pass to Christian Pulisic that saw the swift winger waltzed past his man before side footing the ball past the onrushing Emiliano Martinez. With just six minutes gone, Arsenal were on the back foot.
Conceding that goal also took the winds off the sails of the Gunners with Chelsea on the ascendancy in the early proceedings but if you watched Mikel Arteta’s tactics in recent games, there has been one consistent move where Kieran Tierney loops the ball into space to allow the captain use his blistering pace to great effect. It provided a goal in the semifinals against Manchester City and it proved to be vital yet again, as Tierney sent Aubameyang through with the same ball, leading to a contest between Auba and Cesar Azpilicueta which ultimately saw the experienced defender concede a penalty for infringement. Despite VAR’s best efforts to probably prove otherwise, the penalty decision stood and Aubameyang finished with aplomb.
That goal brought life back to Arsenal’s FA Cup campaign but the disappointment of conceding to Arsenal turned to despair when Azpilicueta pulled up short when chasing for the ball, leading to lengthy treatment and his eventual substitution with youngster, Andreas Christiansen, coming on to replace him. Chelsea had more injury concerns at the start of the second half with Pulisic also pulled his hammy as he attempted a sprint, and with Will.i.an having his own injury problems, Pedro came on to replace Chelsea’s live wire.
That didn’t matter to the Gunners as Aubameyang scored his second goal of the match, which I must say, was sweeter than the sweetest thing I could ever think of at that frigging moment. After receiving the ball from Nicolas Pepe on the right, he shimmed past his marker and dinked a sumptuous ball past a hapless Willy Caballero. The acrobatic celebrations were on show and Arsenal was truly in control of the contest. Their cause was helped when Mateo Kovacic earned an early bath for his tackle on Granit Xhaka. Both lads were combative all game long but Kovacic was on the end of two bookings from infringements on Xhaka, leaving the ref no choice but to do the needful. The Chelsea horror show continued when substitute, Pedro, landed awkwardly and injured his shoulder, which led to a very lengthy treatment and stoppage time as he had to be stretched off.
The ref’s final whistle was like music to the ears of Mikel Arteta, the players and the fans watching worldwide, as their heroes won their 14 FA Cup, making Arsenal the undisputed kings of the competition. Hell, they even inspired me to write my first blog post in the best part of two months, and I hope to remain consistent in the coming days and weeks.
As expected, Arteta waxed lyrical about his captain and even bantered him about his goofy moment when the trophy fell off his hands. At least, I don’t think there will be any bus parade, so Aubameyang will not have his Sergio Ramos moment to drop the trophy under the team bus.
Everyone associated with Arsenal is rightly proud of Mikel Arteta at this moment, as he joins the league of extraordinary gentlemen that have won the FA Cup as a player and manager. More importantly, this is a real silver lining at the end of what has been a very dark season. Started terribly, failed woefully in the transfer market and finished in our lowest position in many years. However, we can look back on this season with some restored hope that things can get better again, if we do the important things like somehow convincing Aubameyang to remain at the club, getting rid of the deadwood and doing the right business in the transfer market.
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