Arsenal vs Aston Villa match report: Gunners win record-breaking 12th FA Cup final as Alexis Sanchez goal lights up Wembley

Arsenal 4 Aston Villa 0: Goals from Theo Walcott, Alexis Sanchez and Per Mertesacker paved the way for victory with Olivier Giroud rounding out the rout

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The Independent Football

Theo Walcott always did write his own scripts, but previously he only committed them to print. Yesterday the children’s author turned imagination into reality as he seized a rare opportunity to lead the line with the killer goal as Arsenal retained the FA Cup.

Arsenal, dazzling Aston Villa with a superb display of ball manipulation and player movement, scored three goals after Walcott’s strike through Alexis Sanchez, Per Mertesacker and Olivier Giroud, but it was Walcott’s 37th-minute volley that broke the dam. After that it was just a matter of how many Arsenal would score so outclassed were Villa.

It was a record 12th FA Cup win for Arsenal, and a landmark-equalling sixth under the management of Arsene Wenger. As a by-product it means Southampton will be in next season’s Europa League rather than Villa, which is probably just as well for Tim Sherwood who looks to have enough on his plate dealing with improving Villa’s league form.

 

Villa are a grand old club with both the heir to the throne and the Prime Minister claiming to be among their supporters but this match showed the watching Randy Lerner the scale of investment required to live with teams like Arsenal. Lerner has scaled back on his early largesse so Villa now await a new owner with deeper pockets.


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Walcott's left-footed volley broke the deadlock (AFP/Getty)

For Arsenal the future is glittering bright. Players like Jack Wilshere and Olivier Giroud were on the bench and others, like Tomas Rosicky and the injured Danny Welbeck not even in the squad. The ambition and expectation must now be for a sustained title challenge next season.

Such is Arsenal’s depth only five members of the XI that started last season’s final also began this. The most unexpected change was the inclusion of Walcott ahead of Giroud, the Englishman’s hat-trick against West Brom last week having apparently persuaded Wenger to choose him ahead of a player who had thrice as many goals, 18, this season. Yet while Walcott’s form was a factor Wenger must have considered Villa’s physically powerful central defence would rather face the muscular Giroud than the quicksilver Walcott. It also sent a powerful message to a player who is entering the last year of his contract. Wenger is forever saying he ‘believes in Walcott’, now that faith was being shown in his actions as well as his words.

Walcott largely repaid his faith causing Villa a litany of problems. The only caveat is that he did not take enough of his chances, but the one he did convert was clinically done. It came just as Villa were beginning to think they could reach the sanctuary of half-time and regroup. Walcott took a long pass on the left and fed Nacho Monreal on the overlap. The full-back’s deep cross was met by Alexis Sanchez, rising above Kieran Richardson, and Walcott, who had continued his run, did not even break stride as he squeezed a fierce left-foot volley inside the near post.

Life is imitating art for Walcott. Among his books are T.J. and the hat-trick, TJ and the Winning Goal and T.J. and the Cup Run. Maybe, with Euro ‘16 beckoning, he should now start on ‘TJ and the European glory’. His performance was certainly thought-provoking for Roy Hodgson who had come to assess Jack Grealish and Tom Cleverley but barely saw them get a kick. They were not alone. Quick-footed and skilful from right-back to left-wing Arsenal came at Villa in tight-knit yellow-shirted formations of intent. Villa were penned back and made to look lumbering.

Villa, their attack isolated and midfield overrun, seemed impotent but Wenger did not allow complacency. Fourteen years ago his Arsenal dominated the final against Liverpool in Cardiff but lost 2-1 after Michael Owen scored twice in the final seven minutes. So Wenger sent his team out to finish the job. Within five minutes they had doubled their lead, within 17 they had sealed the tie beyond doubt.

If one goal was exceptional the other betrayed the defensive inadequacies that have left Villa fighting relegation all season. The first was a swerving, dipping drive from 30 yards by Sanchez, who became the first Chilean to score in the final since George Robledo, back in the days when Newcastle United won trophies (1952). Having typically chased a loose ball he dummied Cleverley before leaving Given bamboozled.

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Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring Arsenal's terrific second goal (Getty)

The next goal was a bread-and-butter parks goal. Cazorla swung in a corner and Mertesacker, with a basic forwards-backwards movement, lost Benteke before heading in unchallenged. It was Arsenal’s 11th goal without reply against Villa this season.

Villa should have had the chance of a consolation when Francis Coquelin brought down Gabriel Agbonlahor as he broke into the box but to their fury Moss waved on. Not that it would have affected the result, Arsenal were so comfortable they were able to bring on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, deemed by Arsenal unfit to play for England next week, but fit enough for an FA Cup final. He promptly made the final goal for Giroud. But there’s been enough football politics this week, yesterday should be remembered for the beauty of Arsenal’s football.

Arsenal: (4-2-3-1) Szczesny; Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Cazorla; Ramsey, Özil (Wilshere, 77), Sanchez (Oxlade-Chamberlain, 90); Walcott (Giroud, 77).

Aston Villa: (4-3-3) Given; Hutton, Okore, Vlaar, Richardson (Bacuna, 68); Cleverley, Westwood (Sanchez, 71), Delph; N’Zogbia (Agbonlahor, 53). Benteke, Grealish.

Referee: J Moss

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