Theo Walcott, Alexis Sanchez, Per Mertesacker and Olivier Giroud helped Arsenal retain the FA Cup on a muggy Saturday evening at Wembley Stadium, as the London club beat Tim Sherwood’s Aston Villa four goals to nil.
The Englishman’s second goal of the competition put Arsenal in the lead just before half-time, before Alexis’ 25th goal of the season secured Arsenal’s place in the record books, winning the competition for a record 12th time.
Walcott added to his three goals versus West Brom with a goal from just inside the area, after Alexis claimed another assist for the season, before the Chilean magician’s swerving shot found the net from 25-yards, putting any Arsenal fan’s fears at ease.
Per Mertesacker said in his pre-match comments that he was still suffering a hangover from Germany’s World Cup win in Brazil, but that didn’t stop the Arsenal captain from heading Arsenal into a three goal lead, a favourite of the Arsenal faithful.
Giroud piled on the misery in what has been a dismal performance for Aston Villa. The Frenchman beat Given at the near post who was helpless.
Tim Sherwood went in search for Aston Villa’s first FA Cup in 54 years after beating Liverpool 2-1 in the semi-finals. Arsenal’s route to the final was perhaps a little easier as they faced Reading in the semi-final, after beating Manchester United in the process.
Olivier Giroud dropped to the bench for Arsenal, despite scoring seven FA Cup goals in 13 appearances. The Frenchman was replaced by Walcott, after impressing Wenger with his performance at the weekend.
Sherwood made three changes at the back to the team that lost against relegated Burnley. Kieran Richardson returned at left-back whilst there was also starts for Alan Hutton and Jores Okore. Shay Given returned in goal having been rested at the weekend.
Arsenal controlled the opening stages
It took Arsenal seven minutes to get in the swing of things. Sanchez showed why he’s one of the Premier League’s best signings with his energetic displays and closing down. Arsenal had three corners in the space of three minutes as they looked to take the lead in the opening stages. Christian Benteke was there on two occasions to clear Villa’s lines, in what could be his final game for the club.
A feisty opening 15 minutes almost saw Arsenal take the lead through Laurent Koscienly. The Frenchman, unmarked in the box ought to have done better from Alexis’ cross, forcing a save from Given.
Moments later and Arsenal fans can be forgiven for thinking Aaron Ramsey had the ball in the back of the net. The ever-improving Hector Bellerin show’s why he deserves a first team place in Wenger’s side, after the Spaniard burst down the right-flank, crossing to the Welshman who found the side netting.
Mesut Ozil’s first moment of brilliance came after 20 minutes, when his clipped pass found Ramsey, who’s been causing the Villa defence all sorts of problems mid-way through the first half. The 24-year old couldn’t keep his shot down, as Given went untroubled.
Walcott showed why he’s deserving of a new contract as Arsenal would have been a goal up had it not been for Richardson’s clearance off the line after 25 minutes. The Englishman has scored six goals in six starts this campaign.
Arsenal’s defence spared Wojciech Szczesny the blushes after the Polish international came 16 yards off his line, failing to punch away Fabian Delph’s cross, as Benteke and Co looked to muster up some sort of attack.
Nacho Monreal played his part in Arsenal’s goal as his cross to the far post found Alexis. The 24-goal forward cushioned the ball back towards Walcott, who made no mistake this time as his fierce shot found the back of the net, moments from half-time.
The brilliant Alexis Sanchez
A moment of brilliance from Alexis’ in the second half doubled Arsenal’s lead from 25-yeards. The Chilean went past two Aston Villa defenders before his ferocious shot dipped and swerved beyond the helpless Given.
Sherwood brought on Gabby Agbonlahor in place of Charles N’Zogiba in a bid to turn the game around, but it was Arsenal who took the lead again through Mertesacker, heading Arsenal into a three goal lead after 62 minutes.
Aston Villa looked at a loss for how they could get back into the game. Benteke was kept quiet by Mertesacker all evening whilst Arsenal’s midfield contained Delph.
The Gunners still had brilliance on the bench as Walcott was replaced by Giroud to a standing ovation, whilst Ozil was replaced by Jack Wilshere.
John Moss waved away a penalty appeal from Agbonlahor in the closing stages of the game, but it was Giroud who had the last laugh, scoring Arsenal's fourth of the game, and it would be the Arsenal fans would be going home the happier, with an emphatic display against Aston Villa.