Chelsea’s bid to complete a Premier League and FA Cup double was scuppered at the final hurdle by an Arsenal side who were in inspired form at Wembley on Saturday.
The Gunners ran out worthy 2-1 winners in Saturday’s finale thanks to goals from Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey. It means that the men from north London have won the FA Cup a record 13 times – more than any other club in the country.
It was also the perfect end to what has been a torturous campaign for Arsene Wenger, as he proved that he still has the ability to win trophies.
Here are five things we learned from a drama-filled 2017 FA Cup final.
5. Desperate Chelsea Lose Their Edge
Based on their performance at Wembley, it’s hard to believe that Chelsea were the best side in the country this season, and it’s even more disturbing that the gap in the league between these two teams was a staggering 18 points.
Whether it was complacency, last weekend’s title celebrations or simply an off day, the Blues were a shadow of their usual selves and were second best throughout the contest.
They will have complaints about Sanchez’s opener, but that aside, it’s hard to argue that they weren’t deserved winners on the day.
It won’t take the gloss of their Premier League title triumph, however, you can’t help but wonder why Antonio Conte’s men were so far off the pace.
4. Referee Anthony Taylor Gets it Spot on With Victor Moses Call
Sanchez’s controversial opener aside, Anthony Taylor had a great game as referee and made one of the biggest, but best, calls in FA Cup final history by giving Victor Moses his marching orders for a blatant dive.
Poor refereeing and simulation have been a topic of debate throughout the season, but Taylor put that to one side and stuck to the letter of the law by punishing Moses in the correct manner.
In a pressurised situation, the officials deserve great credit for their handling of the matter and their contribution to a memorable final should not be forgotten in the years to come.
3. Danny Welbeck Emerges as the Unsung Hero
He may not have scored the winner, or indeed made the correction decisions in front of goal, but make no mistake, Danny Welbeck was vital to the Gunners’ cause.
His clever runs and tireless work-rate meant he was a nightmare for the Blues’ back-three, who have been solid for most of the campaign. Welbeck exposed the lack of pace in the Chelsea defence and his hold up play was equally impressive, as he gave the likes of Gary Cahill and David Luiz the run around.
No goals, but a top-class performance from a man who always gives his best.
2. Arsenal’s 3-4-3 Formation Continues to Shine
Arsenal made a mockery of their defensive ‘crisis’ as captain Per Mertesacker led his teammates to a superb victory. The German’s lack of game-time, Rob Holding’s inexperience, and players playing out of position led many to believe that this would be a typically flimsy Arsenal back-line.
And yet, despite the concern and cynicism, the Gunners passed the acid test as they remained solid at the back for much of the game. This 3-4-3 formation deployed by Wenger has proved a masterstroke in recent weeks and it’s flexibility appears to be getting the best out of many stars who have been off-colour for much of the campaign.
It’s uncertain what lies ahead for this Arsenal team, but starting next season in this system looks like a must for the FA Cup winners.
1. Arsene Wenger Enters the Record Books and Takes Control of This Week’s Showdown Talks
Seven FA cup victories is testament to just how good Arsene Wenger’s record in English football is. The Frenchman admitted before kick-off that the abuse he has received this season has been a disgrace, but despite the turmoil around him, the 67-year-old has kept his composure and responded in typical style by winning yet more silverware.
The failings of the campaign have been obvious, but with yet another FA triumph under his belt, Wenger has gained extra credit ahead of this week’s showdown talks with the board.
It is likely he will make the final call over whether he stays or goes, but whatever he chooses, few can really begrudge his right to make that call after 21 loyal years of service.