Arsenal 2-1 Chelsea: There was light at the end of the very long tunnel
By Alfie Cairns Culshaw (Chief Editor)
After a traumatic and turbulent season full of many low points for this football club, yesterday our pain was relieved. The fans, the players and most of all our head coach deserve this redemption- they deserve the euphoria of winning a trophy on the biggest stage after such a long and exhausting season full of suffering.
Mikel Arteta’s personality was encapsulated in the scenes at full-time- sheer jubilation from himself, his staff and the players, as they embraced in a circle on the Wembley pitch in front of 90,000 empty seats. On the streets of North London, around the Holloway Road area, pandemonium set in. Fans gathered in clumps, expressing their pure joy at ending a horrific season with silverware. Emotions running high, with such an achievement a desperately needed form of escapism for a fanbase that has been through so much in this past year. Eight months ago, these scenes couldn’t be comprehended at a club so damaged and lacking unity. This juxtaposition in moods in such a short space of time serves to highlight the impact Arteta has made culturally, completely shifting the atmosphere around the club from dire empathy to pure jubilation.
It’s not just psychologically where Arteta has made a difference. The more tangible sides of the cub have improved, most notably our performances on the pitch. Yesterday, aside from a shaky opening 20 minutes, we saw a team fully invested in what the manager was asking from them, and that had the tactical flexibility to shift the way the way they were playing throughout the game to come up trumps. After our first half drinks break, Arsenal began to impose themselves on Chelsea, playing through their press elegantly, dictating the game through intelligent possession and probing in and around their penalty box. In the second half, they sat in a more compact shape, allowing Chelsea the ball but limiting the space in which they could operate, whilst carrying a threat on the counter. Arteta’s progressive tactical systems and innovations another indication that he is the right man to take us forward.
What about some of the individuals Arteta has managed to revitalise? Nine months on from being booed off by his own fans and subsequently telling them to ‘f*ck off’, Granit Xhaka produced an immaculate display in the Cup Final, completing his redemption arc. After being told he was surplus to requirements and being frozen out for a poor attitude, Ainsley Maitland-Niles gave a humble interview after the game, in which he demonstrated how this commitment has changed, and declared he “loved it” on the left-hand side of a back five. Dani Ceballos almost called his loan spell to an abrupt end after not featuring regularly in January, but after ‘training like an animal’, he finished this current loan with a Man of the Match display at Wembley. Rob Holding’s injury lay-offs and fitness issues had raised serious questions about his suitability at this level, but he came in and produced another FA Cup Final masterclass. David Luiz defied the critics with a stellar performance against his former club. Emi Martinez landmarked his heroic fairy-tale story with another mesmeric display in between the sticks- ten years of frustration in the cold coming to an end.
And what about Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang? No-one has ever questioned his quality, but his ability to deliver it on the big occasion has been interrogated frequently. Since Arteta’s arrival, the Gabonese striker has netted five goals in three games against Manchester City and Chelsea, including a brace in both the FA Cup semi-final and final. Hopefully this victory is enough to convince him that we are heading in the right direction and he pens a new deal.
We build from here. This painful season is now behind us, with the last few months a sign of what could come if we back our exciting young coach financially. Arteta has set the foundations for a rebuild, it’s now up to the executives to support him. If we do so, the potential for this club is devastating. We have the infrastructure, the stature and the fanbase. We just need the players.
Thanks very much for everyone that has followed this website and blog across the season. We appreciate your support and will continue to provide you with content in the off season, before we go again in just under six weeks’ time. The first trophy this website has been allowed to celebrate. The first of many.