|Arsenal won the competition for a record twelfth time.|
One of the biggest credits I have to hand out from the final goes to Arsene Wenger though. In order for us to play to our potential in this final and cause Villa somewhat of a shock, we needed to stray away from the familiarity of our usual team this season. That was done by placing Theo Walcott up front. Last week against West Brom he bagged a hat-trick and most of the pre-match talk leading up to the final from an Arsenal point of view was about whether it would be him or Giroud to start up top. For me picking Giroud, and the same XI that started over that period of unbeaten matches a few weeks back would've been the safe option. Picking Walcott however would be a brave decision and would show we were really willing to try something in the final. Giroud hadn't scored in eight before coming off the bench late on to score but Walcott's selection in that central role was justified perfectly throughout the game. Against a slow defence with the likes of Okore, Hutton and Vlaar in the Villa side Walcott was the perfect man to cause problems, and indeed that's what he did. His goal exemplified all the true poachers instincts as he gave us a deserved lead in the final. In my eyes it was a brilliant move, Monreal's ball picked out Sanchez who leaped brilliantly to head back into the path of Walcott who volleyed the ball home on his weaker foot.
Theo Walcott has been talked about quite a lot in recent weeks, he arguably hasn't been getting the game time he deserves but in our final games of the season he has shown great form. It's form which is hugely encouraging going into next season as he looks set to 'sign da ting' again. Walcott however could've had more than the one. Before the deadlock was broken in the first half he had a near open goal blocked brilliantly by Kieran Richardson before misfiring later on in the game when the match was already wrapped up.
It was a hugely impressive display from Arsenal, but the platform had been solidly laid from the first half. I mentioned Walcott's chance but Laurent Koscielny also had a header brilliantly kept out by Shay Given early on in the tie. For me though the Gunners stand out player in the first half of the final was Mesut Ozil. For ages we've been crying out for him to put in a performance when it's mattered and on occasion this season he has done that in what has been a solid campaign from the German World Cup winner. However the first half displayed everything good about him. He, along with Santi Cazorla, was at the heart of most of the good things Arsenal did from central areas. What was really prominent though was his tendency to drift past players with constant ease which made our football very pleasing to watch.
It was Alexis Sanchez that grabbed us the goal that effectively put the tie to bed and allowed us to relax in the second half. The Chilean live wire has had a fantastic first season in English football but his goal in the final was probably his best goal yet in Arsenal colours. Tim Sherwood's men had originally come out fighting in the second half but Sanchez's goal simply knocked the stuffing out of the Villains. Nacho Moneral's run down the left flank allowed the space to open up for Sanchez in the middle as he let fly a swerving shot from distance which hit the underside of the bar and went in. Given in the Villa goal had absolutely no chance with it. It really was the perfect way for Alexis to finish his debut season in England.
You could tell from then on in it was most certainly Arsenal's day. The score-line could've been a lot worse for Aston Villa if four isn't already bad enough but strangely enough for us we had created a healthy amount of chances from set-pieces in the game. This was caused by Villa's lackluster defending at times which clearly didn't help their cause. It was therefore no real surprise to see us actually grab a goal from a corner. The ball was swung in and Per Mertesacker escaped the clutches of Benteke before heading home from close range. It was a strike from a player, whom like Sanchez, loves a Wembley goal. He scored in the semi-final win over Wigan last year, and also for Germany in an international friendly against England.
Olivier Giroud can count himself quite unlucky not to have started the final but he made an impact when he came on, and offered a different proposition to the one offered by Theo Walcott for the majority of the game. For his goal the two subs combined as Oxlade-Chamberlain played the ball in and Giroud flicked the ball into the back of the net. It was a typical near post goal from the Frenchman who this campaign has had his best goals to game ratio so far in a season for Arsenal; it was his 19th in 36 games. Whether or not he'll still be our main striker come the start of the next season remains to be seen.
I also feel as though it is important to pick up on Wojciech Szczesny's performance. One of the main selection dilemmas before the game was whether he or David Ospina would start. Indeed it was Szczesny who played, as for the second year running Wenger kept faith in his 'cup' keeper for the final. Although he didn't have a real save to make he was decisive off his line and made some important decisions to claim the ball instead of letting Benteke perhaps out jump the defender and have an effort on goal.
It was a brilliant team effort, and it was great to see the celebrations unfold again at the final whistle. It didn't quite feel as special as last year but it certainly put a smile on all Arsenal fans once more after a slightly disappointing Premier league campaign. All that remains to be said is that here's to next season being even more successful than the previous two!
The team's line-ups:
Aston Villa: Given, Hutton, Okore, Vlaar, Richardson(68), Delph, Westwood(70), N'Zogbia(52), Cleverley, Grealish, Benteke.
Subs: Guzan, Baker, Bacuna(68), Sanchez(70), Cole, Sinclair, Agbonlahor(52).
Arsenal: Szczesny, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Ramsey, Ozil(77), Sanchez(89), Walcott(77).
Subs: Ospina, Gabriel, Gibbs, Flamini, Wilshere(77), Oxlade-Chamberlain(89), Giroud(77).
My man of the match: Alexis Sanchez.
Referee: Jonathan Moss.