Arsenal 2-1 Chelsea: Analysis as Gunners become the most successful team in FA Cup history

Arsenal 2-1 Chelsea: Analysis as Gunners become the most successful team in FA Cup history

Victory at Wembley means Arsenal have now won 13 FA Cups, more than any other team.

TJWedderburn
TJ Wedderburn

A much anticipated cup final between two London rivals certainly lived up to it's billing.

Chelsea won the Premier League in convincing fashion and were chasing a domestic double. Whereas Arsenal wanted to end the season on a high following a disappointing league campaign. 

After a pulsating 90 minute clash, It would be the red team from London to secure cup glory. Goals from Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey either side of a Diego Costa equaliser were enough to see The Gunners win a record 13th FA Cup.

The battle of the back three

Antonio Conte and Arsene Wenger both deployed a 3-4-3 formation, but there were question marks over the Arsenal defence due to their injury problems.

Wenger's side were without the suspended Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi missed the game with a concussion, and Gabriel was also ruled out after sustaining a knee injury against Everton.

Called into central defence was Per Mertesacker, a player who despite having a wealth of experience, had not started a single game all season. He was partnered by the promising Rob Holding and makeshift centre back Nacho Monreal. 

Many thought Mertesacker's lack of pace and match sharpness would be a contributing factor in an Arsenal loss, but the former German international silenced his doubters with a fantastic captain's performance.

The towering defender largely kept Chelsea forward Diego Costa at bay, with the help of Holding and Monreal who were also excellent. Mertesacker put in several well-timed challenges and also made key interceptions. He may not be the most nimble of footballers, but the World Cup winner's reading of the game is second to none.

Full back Kieran Gibbs was also absent for the final after failing to recover from a sickness bug. With Monreal playing in the back three, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was installed at left wing back. The 23-year-old once again proved his versatility with a very astute display, negating the threat of his opposite number Victor Moses.

On the opposite flank for Arsenal was Hector Bellerin, the Spaniard showed why he is so highly thought of by The Gunners faithful. Bellerin was a crucial outlet in attack and defence throughout the match, and was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet late on. After showing David Luiz a clean set of heels, he fired just wide of the far post from inside the box. 

Controversial opener

Arsenal took the lead after just five minutes through Alexis Sanchez, but the decision to allow the goal to stand was somewhat contentious.

Sanchez recieved the ball on the edge of the Chelsea area and attempted a chipped through pass to Aaron Ramsey, who ran in behind The Blues defence. However, the pass was intercepted by Luizwho headed the ball back into the path of Sanchez, who then ran through on goal and produced a deft outside of the foot finish.

Initially, the linesman flagged because Ramsey was clearly standing in an offside position when Sanchez scored. And although he didn't touch the ball, he certainly made movements towards it which possibly prevented Thibaut Courtois from coming to collect.

The Premier League champions also felt aggrieved that Sanchez appeared to handle the ball before scoring, but referee Anthony Taylor deemed the goal legitimate.

Arsenal were rewarded for a bright start, and they continued to pile the pressure on after breaking the deadlock. 

Arsenal's main men come to the fore

Mesut Ozil and Sanchez are often singled out as Arsenal's biggest threats. Both are big money signings at The Emirates, but Ozil is often criticised for his lack of impact on big games. Sanchez however, faces no such criticism, and he once again proved his importance after netting that early goal.

Ozil, who was at times unplayable, had the opportunity to make it 2-0 after 15 minutes, but his delicate chip was cleared off the line by Gary Cahill. 

Three minutes later, he almost provided an assist for Danny Welbeck from a corner, but the 26-year-old's header hit the post and Ramsey was unable to follow up.

15 minutes before the break, it was Sanchez's turn to provide for Welbeck, the Chilean played him in but his effort was saved by Courtois.

Sanchez was denied a second of the day six minutes later. After making a clever run in behind Chelsea's defence, he was picked out magnificently by Ozil, but his eventual shot was blocked by Cahill. 

Chelsea's best chance of the half fell to Pedro in the 38th minute, after receiving a pass from Eden Hazard in the Arsenal box, the former Barcelona man's shot flew harmlessly over the bar.  

Arsenal headed into half-time deservedly a goal to the good and their two main men were putting on an show.

Moses sees red, Ramsey repeats heroics 

The second half from an Arsenal point of view was simply about not being made to pay for missed opportunities. And a moment of madness from Victor Moses aided The Gunners' cause. 

Having previously been booked for a cynical foul on Welbeck, Moses was booked once again for simulation after going down in the box without any contact. 

The Nigerian's dismissal left his team with a numerical disadvantage, as well as being a goal down. But the spirit of the champions was briefly on display thanks to a goal from Costa.

With just a quarter of an hour left on the clock, Costa controlled substitute Willian's cross beautifully on his chest, let the ball bounce, and unleashed a volley toward goal which beat Arsenal 'keeper David Ospina. 

The Colombian shot stopper could've perhaps got a firmer hand on the ball, but a deflection off Mertesacker meant the save was not as straightforward as it might have been. 

Despite Arsenal's dominance and extra man, the game was once again in the balance, but Chelsea's equaliser would prove to be very short lived. 

Just three minutes after Costa made it 1-1, Olivier Giroud, who came on for Welbeck, crossed for Ramsey who made no mistake with his head from close range. 

Seventh heaven

The combination of Ramsey and Giroud won the FA Cup for Arsenal in 2014. Fast forward three years and the exact same combination made it a record seven FA Cups for Arsene Wenger. 

Wenger is now responsible for exactly a third of all Arsenal's major honours, cementing his legacy as the greatest manager in the club's illustrious history. 

Now, the question on everybody's lips is Will Wenger continue in charge? 

According to comments from 67-year-old, a decision on his future will be made in the next week. If he is to finally depart his beloved team, he could hardly pick a better way to end his reign. 

 

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