Arsenal Run Riot to Take Their Place in History

Published: 31st May 2015 11:38 AM  |   Last Updated: 31st May 2015 11:38 AM   |  A+A-


This was a cuffed final more than a cup final. Arsenal were so utterly dominant; Aston Villa so easily beaten that the 134th FA Cup final was no contest, a mismatch on an embarrassing scale for the claret and blue.

There was a slice of history for Arsene Wenger, winning this old jug on a sixth occasion to become only the second manager to do so in the history of the competition. The other was George Ramsay, with Villa, in an epic managerial spell that stretched through four decades.

   >>Related: Arsenal Beats Aston Villa 4-0 to Defend FA Cup Title

Wenger's longevity will not reach quite that far - but then again who knows? - although he does appear re-energised by this emerging Arsenal who have retained the FA Cup and now must hope to use this as a foundation for greater things. Trophies are now returning for Arsenal.

This 12th capture of the FA Cup also meant that Arsenal pushed ahead of Manchester United, who have 11 wins, and have taken the trophy more than any other club. They owe half those triumphs to Wenger, who will have felt fully vindicated, not least in his team selection as he chose Theo Walcott to lead his attack. Walcott scored the first goal.

For Villa's manager Tim Sherwood, so full of chutzpah, this was chastening. He has done superbly to reach the final, and to retain Villa's Premier League status, but now he has to really prove what kind of manager he is. On this evidence he was simply overwhelmed.

After the grubbiness and depression of the Fifa Congress and the septic re-election of Sepp Blatter, here was a raucous, cleansing occasion.

An FA Cup final rich in tradition, with two grand old clubs, two vociferous tribes of support, and an atmosphere that built rapidly.

Credit the FA for a twist, Abide With Me sung by a choir of fans from various clubs, kitted in their colours, out on the pitch and then a wall of sound as the supporters greeted the kick-off.

It crackled from the first touch as the ball was heaved out wide to Christian Benteke and then, from the header down, Arsenal immediately countered as they attempted to find Walcott.

Wenger had ceded to the calls for pace and form - and perhaps to head off the likelihood of this particular player deciding his future no longer lay with Arsenal as he gears up for contract talks - by including Walcott as his central striker.

A free-kick was won, and then another. Suddenly Arsenal were turning the screw.

For once it seemed they had decided on a quick tempo, a fast start to a final having been so sluggish in their recent Wembley appearances, not least in last season's occasion when they found themselves two goals down to Hull City before rallying to claim the victory which ended that nine-year drought of trophy success and eased the tension around Wenger.

Not that Villa were to be easily cowed. Their outlet was Benteke, who consistently drew wide to the left side of Arsenal's defence.

Did Villa sense a vulnerability in the area patrolled between Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal? It appeared to be the case and, willed on by their support, Villa probed.

Still, the first opportunity - the first of many - was crafted by Arsenal and through the jinking close-control of Santi Cazorla. Ron Vlaar conceded the corner; then Jores Okore another with Koscielny flashing his header across goal.

Benteke clipped Cazorla, Tom Cleverley was booked for tripping Monreal and Villa were feeling the pressure.

Another free-kick. This time it was worked to Alexis Sanchez who chipped the ball across for Koscielny to again rise and, this time, direct his header powerfully goalwards. Shay Given pushed it out.

Then Hector Bellerin picked out Aaron Ramsey who slid the ball close. It struck the side-netting.

Ramsey went close again. This time it followed an elusive run by Mesut Ozil with the ball breaking to Ramsey, off Vlaar, only for him to poke his shot narrowly over.

By now Villa were on the ropes. Again Cazorla and Ozil combined to create an opportunity for Walcott whose side-footed volley would have beaten Given but was blocked, superbly, by Kieran Richardson at full stretch. Walcott was just six yards out and as good as the intervention was from Richardson he should have scored.

Sherwood needed his team to gain a foothold. They had been pressed back, dominated, by Arsenal's quick passing and struggling to gain any kind of rhythm as they attempted to venture forwards. It was ponderous and unsure.

They were desperate not to be caught on the counter-attack. Containment appeared to be their goal while, conversely, Arsenal will have grown anxious that their dominance had not achieved a breakthrough.

But the dam did burst, and the anxiety disappeared.

Again Arsenal found a way in behind the defence with Ramsey standing up a cross which Sanchez headed back across goal and into space. Fatally,Villa's defence did not react, Charles N'Zogbia stood still, and there was Walcott to smash the ball left-footed into the net.

The game was not over, even if it should have been, and there was a residue of hope if only Sherwood could try to tap into it.

To do so he needed to gain a greater involvement from Jack Grealish, but after he was crowded out in the penalty area it was Arsenal who broke with the ball eventually landing at the feet of Sanchez who drifted back inside.

Hutton and Cleverley both backed off but, still, the Chilean was more than 25 yards out when he struck a fierce, swerving right-footed shot that ripped past Given, clipping the crossbar and into the net.

Wembley had another classic FA Cup Final goal and it felt like this time it was over.

Sanchez became only the second Chilean to score in an FA Cup final - after George Robledo in 1952 who claimed the only goal as Newcastle United beat Arsenal.

But surely Arsenal would not lose this one having taken such a powerful grip against such anaemic opponents?

It was Arsenal pressing with Given parrying smartly as Villa were carved open once more. The goalkeeper, who had already repelled another Ramsey effort, blocked Cazorla's eventual, low shot before he ran to the edge of the area to, desperately, thwart Walcott.

But there was no denying Arsenal. It was becoming traumatic for Villa and the way in which Per Mertesacker checked and easily evaded his marker, Benteke, at a corner to simply plant his header past Given was just too straightforward.

In the dugout Sherwood sat, disbelieving, his fingers across the bridge of his nose.

There was more to come. In injury-time all three Arsenal substitutes combined, with Jack Wilshere flicking the ball inside to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who crossed low. There was Olivier Giroud to guide it home. By then, Villa had given up.

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