By Spy Uganda
London: It has been a rookie managerial season like no other for Mikel Arteta, who was appointed in a crisis at Christmas and now finishes with an FA Cup.
This was a FA Cup final full of all the dramatic stuff: great goals, big injuries, a red card and the bad feeling that ordinarily has existed between these two clubs since they first began competing on the same level in the modern era. For Frank Lampard, it just about all went wrong in the crucial moments of the game but for his opposite number Arteta, the plan seemed to work perfectly and delivered a trophy ahead of schedule.
It will be much harder should this final’s match-winner Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have a better option in the forthcoming transfer window. He scored the penalty he himself won in the first half, and his finish for the winner was the game’s moment of outstanding quality. In between there was much more to admire in Arsenal who demonstrated a ruthless edge over the course of this game, including the relentless demand for referee Anthony Taylor to dismiss Chelsea players.
The referee who was taking charge of his second FA Cup final between these two sides, duly obliged in the 75th minute when he dismissed Mateo Kovacic for a second yellow card. It was a decision which, on balance, would have been worthy of a review had it fallen under the video assistant’s jurisdiction. Chelsea were still coming for the equaliser in the seventh minute of time added on as Pedro, a second half substitute, played his last minutes in a Chelsea shirt.
The Spanish winger, departing as a free agent for Roma, was injured at the very end, to add to a list of casualties that cost Lampard dearly. His goalscorer Christian Pulisic tore a hamstring in the act of shooting at the start of the second half.
For Arteta, the honour of winning the 14th FA Cup in Arsenal’s history, two of which he won as an Arsenal player, a place in the Europa League, but also a crucial endorsement of his managerial reputation. So too the establishment of his power within the club: this manager will be able to make demands of Arsenal’s embattled owners.
It was Lampard’s players who looked the more comfortable with what was being asked of them in the early stages. Neither Willian nor N’Golo Kante was judged fit, the latter on the bench, and so it was Jorginho in the centre of midfield once again. Reece James was trusted as the right wing-back and it was from Christian Pulisic that the inspiration came in the early stages.
The United States international became the first American to score in an FA Cup final, within five minutes, starting the move that ended with Olivier Giroud’s deft back heel into the winger’s path. The moment was upon Kieran Tierney before the Scot, playing as one of three Arsenal centre-halves, could even think about safely offering a challenge and so Pulisic was able to sweep the ball past Emiliano Martinez.
“Nothing, just the trophy today. Thank you!”
“We were good today, we are happy as you can see! It means a lot, this game and this trophy. I think we deserve this win, we did a great job and he [Martinez[ did a great job.
“Zouma knows me well, knows I’m right-footed so I went to the left and scored.”
“I can’t believe it. My family… I can’t really talk. I said to him [Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang] before the game, you are going to win us the game. He delivered.”
“You can see what this means to Arsenal. In the empty Wembley we can hear all the cheers from every player. Arteta looks emotional and is hugging anyone in sight.”
The Gunners will enter the Europa League at the group stage, meaning Tottenham will enter at the second qualifying round stage.