WEMBLEY Arsenal glided to a record 12th FA Cup triumph in their record 19th final as they routed a lacklustre Aston Villa 4-0 at Wembley writes KEIR RADNEDGE
Arsenal, having won nothing for nine years, thus secured their third trophy in just over 12 months and, coincidentally, opened up a Europa League slot for Southampton.
Goals either side of half-time from Theo Walcott and Alexis Sanchez – a wonderful strike – put the Gunners commandingly in charge of a game they had seized by the scruff of the neck from the outset. Skipper Per Mertesacker was allowed a ‘free’ header for No3 and substitute Olivier Giroud slid home a fourth in stoppage time.
Villa had lost three of their last five league games after qualifying for the final. They ended the season one position and three points above the relegation zone and the chasm in class was painfully evident. Never, at any time, did they even vaguely suggest they might collect the club’s first piece of silverware in 19 years.
Arsenal could have taken the lead after 13 minutes. Villa keeper Shay Given leaped to his right to fist away a header from Laurent Koscielny.
Then Aaron Ramsey twice went close before Walcott, a surprise choice at centre-forward rather than Giroud, had a close-range shot blocked by Ron Vlaar.
Walcott eventually justified his selection when he thumped Arsenal ahead in the 41st minute after Alexis Sanchez headed back a far-post chip from Nacho Monreal to whose left-wing raids Villa had little answer.
Arsenal thus led at the interval and it could have been more. A sign of the pressure on Villa was the handing out of three yellow cards by referee Jon Moss. Villa manager Tim Sherwood could not have complained had it been twice as many.
Villa needed a rapid reaction at the start of the second half. Instead Arsenal extended their lead. Sanchez drifted in from the left and, from almost 30m out, thundered home a powerful drive which stripped the paint off the underside of the bar on its way beyond a spreadeagled Given.
The veteran keeper was picking the ball out of the back of the net again just after the hour. This time Villa failed to pick up lanky Mertesacker who was offered a headed goal on a plate from man of the match Santi Cazorla’s right-wing corner.
Giroud, on for Walcott, slipped home a fourth in the third minute of stoppage time to present manager Arsene Wenger with a sixth personal FA Cup win, a modern-day record.
Villa might have had a late penalty when Jack Grealish appeared to be tripped at the byline by Hector Bellerin but Villa hardly deserved to emerge with even a consolation goal.
Arsenal: Szczesny – Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal – Coquelin – Ramsey, Ozil (Wilshere 76), Cazorla, Sanchez (Oxlade-Chamberlain 89) – Walcott (Giroud 76).
Aston Villa: Given – Hutton, Okore, Vlaar, Richardson (Bacuna 68) – Westwood (C Sanchez 70), Delph – N’Zogbia (Agbonlahor 51), Cleverley, Grealish – Benteke.
Referee: Moss. Attendance: 89,283.