A brace from Arsenal’s talisman Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang helped the Gunners to a record 14th FA Cup win in a 2-1 victory over rivals Chelsea at Wembley.
The Gabonese international’s first was a well-dispatched penalty, which he won, that sent goalkeeper Willy Caballero the wrong way, with his second being a beautifully executed chip after deceiving defender Kurt Zouma.
Despite falling behind just five minutes into the final, thanks to a goal from Chelsea’s star player Christian Pulisic, the Gunners showed the resilience and belief that was seen in their FA Cup semi-final victory over Manchester City, as they began to take control of the game.
After a slow start, Arsenal found the defensive structure they showed against City too, with the Gunners not allowing their opponents to have a single shot on target past the 10th minute of the game.
Whilst the Gunners rode their luck at times in the final, such as referee Anthony Taylor giving a harsh red card to Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovacic, few can doubt that Arsenal didn’t deserve to win the game. Here is how Mikel Arteta won his first trophy as a manager in professional football.
Attacking down the left
Something Arsenal exploited superbly, especially in the first half, was the long ball down the left hand side. One of Ainsley Maitland-Niles, the left wing-back, or Aubameyang, the left winger, would make a run in-behind Cesar Azpilicueta, Chelsea’s right centre back, taking advantage of his lack of pace.
This is exactly what led to Arsenal’s opening goal, as an excellent long pass from Kieran Tierney, pictured with the ball above, found Aubameyang, off the picture, who timed his run to perfection.
The image above is a result of Tierney’s long ball, with Aubameyang now in on the Chelsea goal after getting the better of Azpilicueta, the man behind him. The Chelsea defender then pulls him back as he cannot keep up with the Arsenal winger and gives away a penalty, which was scored by the same man.
This was not the only time where Arsenal utilised this method of attack, with defender Maitland-Niles also getting past the Chelsea back line on a few occasions, including in the opening minutes where he put in a cross which Aubameyang headed wide.
When the Spanish defender was taken off injured, Lampard countered Arsenal’s plan by bringing on Andreas Christensen and moving Kurt Zouma to where Azpilicueta played. This was a good move by the Chelsea coach as Zouma’s pace helped nullify the Gunners’ method of attack considerably. However, while Arsenal were allowed to go forward this way, it was very effective.
Mikel Arteta has done a huge number of things right so far in his Arsenal career, however, for once, his players have helped him out, instead of the other way around, and that is what Aubameyang did for his coach in this game.
This is nothing against Arteta at all, who set the team up superbly to counter Chelsea’s strengths and exploit their weaknesses, however Aubameyang’s quality was vital in helping Arsenal bring the FA Cup back to the Emirates.
Not only was the winger’s penalty near perfect as it nestled in the side netting of the Chelsea goal, but his second of the evening was something that any young winger should learn from.
A typical Aubameyang finish, similar to a previous Arsenal number 14 Thierry Henry, is when he opens up his body and passes the ball into the far corner of the net. In the picture above, seconds before he scores, he fakes to do the same and defender Kurt Zouma gets fooled, putting his body weight all on his left leg anticipating the shot.
Instead, Aubameyang cuts the ball onto his left foot and chips the ball over Caballero in the Chelsea goal. It is a move that has been perfected by the likes of PSG wonderkid Kylian Mbappe and is a skill that is simple, yet so effective.
Overall, it was a well-deserved win for Mikel Arteta’s men. In just eight months of professional management, the Spanish manager has beaten the likes of Pep Guardiola and Frank Lampard in an incredible FA Cup run.
When Arsenal were drawn in the semi-finals with the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea, the Gunners were seen as the easy draw. However, as they’ve demonstrated many times under Arteta, they thrive as the underdogs and they showed it once again when it truly mattered.
Arsenal’s win also put them into the Europa League group stages for next season, meaning not only will they receive a strong sum of money for qualifying, but it also means 6th placed Tottenham will now be put into the Europa League qualifying rounds instead of the group stages.
Arsenal now face a much-deserved break with all domestic competitions coming to an end, however, Arteta’s side will be back in action in four weeks time with the Community Shield versus Premier League champions Liverpool at Wembley on 29th August.