So Arsenal beat Aston Villa in the FA Cup final today, 4-0. They played superbly. In fact, I’d say it was one of the best FA Cup performances I’ve ever seen. Maybe even the best. Their attacking verve was quite outstanding. It seemed like Villa froze on the big occasion, with no sign of the spirit that manager Tim Sherwood had infused in them since he took over, saving them from relegation. Not enough confidence to use young Jack Grealish in a central role, where he could do damage. Not enough energy to counter Arsenal’s pressing in midfield, which established their control of the game from early on. Not enough nous to release their key striker, Benteke, from the suffocating grip that Arsenal’s defence imposed on him. Just not enough quality.
Arsenal were rampant. As is often their fate, it took time to turn the dominance into goals, and after about 35 minutes, there was that fear that dominance could turn to frustration. But after 40 minutes the first goal came – a brilliant volley from Theo Walcott, who had been preferred to Olivier Giroud – and after that, it was simply a case of whether Arsenal could keep the pressure on in the second half.
They did. Cazorla, Ozil and Ramsey continued to control the midfield; Sanchez and Walcott’s movement continued to bamboozle the Villa defenders. Coquelin kept the midfield defence steady and the defence – well they had a pretty easy day, but did their job when necessary. Bellerin and Monreal provided good width down the flanks.
And then Sanchez scored a thirty yard wonder goal that looked like it would bust the net, and Arsenal were rolling – and Villa reeling. After that it was a question of how many Arsenal would score. They got a couple more – Mertesacker with a simple header, Giroud with a clever tap in near the end, after he’d come on for Walcott. Those goals put the icing on a very impressive cake.
Santi Cazorla got Man of the Match, and no-one could argue with that. But Mesut Ozil must have run him close. So languid that he often looks like he’s not trying; but he’s everywhere, linking, always looking for that incisive pass. A footballing artist.
And so the season ends on a high for Arsenal. FA Cup winners and 3rd in the Premier League. The best for some time. But how close is the holy grail, the Premier League title?
The perennial question for Arsenal.
Chelsea won the Premier League pretty easily this season.Man City had some wobbles, but still came second. How can Arsenal break past those two, who will, no doubt, reinforce their squads in the summer? As ever, we have to look at the spine of the team. What could make Arsenal the best? So, they need a really, really, top class goal keeper, to give the whole defence confidence. If Chelsea are willing to let Petr Cech go, Arsenal should snap him up. Another high quality centre back is needed – maybe the German Mats Hummels? Francis Coquelin may have solved the defensive midfield issue, but what if he gets injured? Another player is needed. I’m not sure who, but Arsene Wenger must know the market. And then up front, Olivier Giroud, good in patches, isn’t quite up to the mark. It’s not easy to buy top quality goalscorers – everyone wants them – but as well as looking around Europe, is it worth considering someone like Charlie Austin, who scored a lot of goals for a poor QPR side?
There aren’t easy answers, but Arsenal now have the cashflow, and they need to splash it.
As you’ll know if you read my blogs, I’m a West Ham fan, but Arsenal are my family team, and the team I support when I’m thinking about winning the league. Maybe the Hammers will reach that position once they are in the Olympic Stadium and get more financial support. I also love the way Arsenal play football, and would love to see their style prevail. But it will take serious investment to break through to the very top again.
Are they willing?