Arsenal became the most successful side in FA Cup history, after dominating Aston Villa from start to finish to win 4-0 in Saturday’s final at Wembley. Last year’s final victory at Hull City had been a nervy affair in which Arsenal had to bounce back from an early 2-0 deficit. But this time around they were switched on from the first whistle to claim a record 12th triumph in the world’s oldest domestic cup competition in emphatic fashion.
Theo Walcott justified his selection ahead of Olivier Giroud by smashing Arsenal into a lead that by the time it arrived five minutes from the end of the first half was already long overdue. With no half-time renaissance from Tim Sherwood’s underdogs, Alexis Sanchez produced the moment of the match five minutes into the second period, striking a sensational long-range effort that swerved viciously past Shay Given. And the result was put beyond any doubt with still nearly 30 minutes to go when Per Mertesacker was given unfathomable space right in front of goal to head home Santi Cazorla’s corner. Just for good measure, with the final whistle about to be blown, substitute Olivier Giroud made the celebrations even sweeter by finding the net from a near-post cross.
Cazorla's contribution for the third goal was just s small part of what he offered in a brilliant display. The Spaniard ran the show in the center of the pitch, with Aston Villa unable to get close to him or many of his teammates for much of the early evening in north London. Villa had been superb in overwhelming Liverpool in the semifinals, but Arsenal had the quality to play around them. Having seen their season peter out after securing safety, notably going down to a 6-1 defeat to Southampton, Sherwood’s side were left unable to rediscover the form of their last visit to Wembley.
In contrast, Arsenal were a markedly different side from the one that struggled past Hull a year ago and that did likewise against Reading in this year’s semifinals. From the start Arsenal played with the kind of intensity and purpose that has so often been absent in big games in which they are placed under pressure to deliver. A defeat would have seen their season end on a major flat note, but Wenger, who now moves onto six FA Cup titles to become the joint moist successful manager of all time in the competition, should now lead an Arsenal full of confidence into this summer and next season.
was the biggest margin of victory in an FA Cup final in 21 years, but following 3-0 and 5-0 victories for Arsenal over Aston Villa earlier in the season, did full justice to Arsenal’s superiority. Right away Aston Villa were on the back foot and Arsenal were quickly creating chances of increasing quality. Laurent Koscielny’s header was spectacularly kept out by Given, while Aaron Ramsey shot over and Walcott was denied by a block from Kieran Richardson.
But Walcott was not to be denied for long. The man who scored a hat-trick on the final day of the Premier League season played his part in the buildup, feeding the ball on down the left for Nacho Monreal to cross before making his way into the box to crash home a left-footed shot after Sánchez’s header fell into his path.
Sánchez had shown his tenacity to keep that attack alive and he did so once again early in the second half, along with a thrilling glimpse of his outstanding quality, to put Arsenal firmly in control. Having scurried over to win a loose ball, the Chilean moved onto his right foot and unleashed a stunning effort full of power and movement that flew into the Villa net off the crossbar. For Sánchez, it continued his outstanding record at Wembley, having scored both Arsenal goals in their semifinal victory over Reading and finding the net twice in Chile’s 2013 friendly against England.
If it hadn’t been already, the game was now up for Aston Villa. Cazorla went close to what would have been a fitting goal for him before Mertesacker further emphasized the gulf between the sides. Somehow left free six yards out in front of goal, Mertesacker didn’t exactly produce the cleanest header of his career, but it had enough on it to bounce into the net.
Aston Villa might have had two penalties for unpunished challenges by Francis Coquelin and Hector Bellerin. But, in truth, had the decisions gone the other way it is hard to imagine them greatly altering the outcome. Arsenal were comfortably the best team on the pitch, a fact only made clearer when Giroud came off the bench and in trademark fashion turned in a near-post cross from fellow-substitute Alex Oxalde-Chamberlain.