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The trophy was dropped by victorious captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the moments before the relocated pitch-level FA Cup final pot-lift, although on balance it was no less surreal than celebrating to empty Wembley stands – or indeed that it was Arsenal who were doing so.
A rookie managerial season like no other for Mikel Arteta, who was appointed in a crisis at Christmas and over the following months presided over some familiar Arsenal calamities in the league and Europe. Yet here he was at the final whistle rushing onto the pitch to embrace his players who had delivered a trophy out of the blue that should future-proof their manager’s reign for some time to come.
Can we discern the shape of the Arteta era in this FA Cup run in which first Manchester City and now Chelsea have been dispatched at Wembley? Pragmatic at times, with a reliance on the pace and skill of Aubameyang, their matchwinner who might yet have a better option this summer. But also a ruthless bunch who pushed hard for cards for Chelsea players and got them on this occasion. Arteta has shown Arsenal a route out of the mediocrity and that might be enough for now.
This was a FA Cup final full of all the dramatic stuff: great goals, big injuries, and a mistaken red card for Mateo Kovacic dished out by Anthony Taylor with the game in the balance. The second yellow for the Chelsea midfielder was revealed to be for a challenge in which his toe in fact slipped under the foot of Granit Xhaka and the video assistant protocol being what it is, there was no recourse to Var. Frank Lampard’s problems had already started with the injuries to Willian and N’Golo Kante that meant they played no part, although they did not end there.
There was what looked like a torn hamstring for his captain Cesar Azpilicueta and then another at the beginning of the second half for goalscorer Christian Pulisic, ending both their finals early. There was even a dislocated shoulder to send Pedro on his way, the last act in a Chelsea shirt for the substitute who seemed determined to sign off with something special but ended up on a stretcher. In the stands, Timo Werner watched from behind his face mask.
There was misfortune with injuries but also the nagging sense that Lampard missed a chance here against an Arsenal team with their own problems. Pulisic glided around Kieran Tierney for the first goal of the game on five minutes but Chelsea never again really exploited that creaky Arsenal defence and Arteta’s players, as they had in the semi-final against Manchester City, grew in confidence as the game progressed. Aubameyang’s 67th minute winner was the second half’s only attempt on target for both sides.
In the midst of it, Arteta’s boys roughed it out. The Arsenal manager, the first to captain and manage Arsenal to an FA Cup final victory, was also the first of the club’s managers to be booked in a final. His complaints and opinions finally tipping Taylor into action and that bad feeling between the two sides was discernible, although this time it was Arsenal demonstrating that they could be just as ruthless.
Certainly Arteta, whose highest paid player was nowhere to be seen – Mesut Ozil later tweeting his congratulations. For the manager who won the 14th FA Cup in Arsenal’s history, to add to the two he won as an Arsenal player, there was also a place in next season’s Europa League. Even more important, the endorsement of his managerial reputation and with it the reinforcing of his power within the club. This manager will be able to make demands of Arsenal’s embattled owners. He asks a lot of his players and he will now be in a position to ask for the players more capable of delivering it.
Much came down to the finishing of Aubameyang who switched the ball from his right foot to his left for a sublime second goal. Before then he had taken Azpilicueta to places the old defender just does not want to go these days, specifically sprinting towards his own goal in races he can never hope to win. From the moment he set off in pursuit of Aubameyang in the 26th minute, the Chelsea captain was grasping desperately for a handhold and eventually found it with his left hand on the striker’s right shoulder.
The Arsenal captain delayed his tumble until he reached the area. He dispatched the penalty with the look of a man who had never considered missing. Azpilicueta had long been off injured by the time Aubameyang scored his remarkable second. The ball was carried forward by Hector Bellerin who was challenged by the substitute Andreas Christensen in another of those pivotal moments to the game. It went from Nicolas Pepe to Aubameyang and there was nothing Kurt Zouma or anyone else could do about the skill that took the Arsenal captain clear, or indeed his finish.
Yet Chelsea had the better of the start to the game, when Pulisic had started the move that ended with him gliding past Kieran Tierney before the Scot, playing as one of three Arsenal centre-halves, could even think about safely offering a challenge. The United States international became the first American to score in an FA Cup final, and he might have scored again in the minute after half-time but his muscle tore as he prepared to shoot.
Later on there was another moment when Emiliano Martinez looked like he might have handled outside his area although the replays appeared to show that while his feet were over the line his hands were the right side of it. The game could have swung back Chelsea’s way and then Kovacic was shown the red card and it looked like this very open game at last had a winner. Taylor booked Dani Ceballos for demanding the second yellow card before he then belatedly gave that second yellow to Kovacic – a bad decision which Var could not rescue him from.
Chelsea finished the 11 minutes of time added on with nine players after Pedro’s departure despite making five substitutions, and there was to be no way back for them. There were ten points and four places between these two sides in the league which is some ground for Arteta to make up next season although this represented a very good start on that.
Jason Burt on the importance of Aubameyang
This is Jason Burt’s takeaway from the FA Cup final, focusing on Arsenal’s brilliant superstar striker. What would they do without him?
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s FA Cup final performance must convince Arsenal to meet his contract demands
Mikel Arteta post-match
It’s an incredible way to finish the season. My first experience as a manager. Thank you so much for the club for trusting me, the players for the spirit they created and of course the fans.
He’s an incredible season again, we demand a lot of work, we expect the big player to turn up in these big games.
AND IS AUBAMEYANG GOING TO STAY?!
I am very positive, I had a conversation with him. I think he wants to stay. Let’s get it done.
Socially distanced trophy lifting
So the players walk past a little plinth on the pitch and pick up a medal kept inside a box. No handshakes with members of the Royal Family that nobody actually knows, or various people who look important because they have a suit.
Then Aubameyang comes to take the trophy. No fans to lift it in front of but there is tension…. and THEN HE DROPS IT! A CRIME AGAINST MAGIC!
And then he lifts the trophy. Arsenal’s 14th FA Cup win.
Rio Ferdinand reckons Aubameyang is gone
“He’s gone. That means he’s gone.
“That spoke to me as someone who is already looking to go elsewhere.”
It was a poor start but everyone reacts with a good attitude. We did it.
I’m so happy for the team and the boys.
ARE YOU STAYING? ARE YOU STAYING? ARE YOU GOING?
I’m not thinking about this, and taking the trophy.
What an achievement for Arteta
Arsenal were getting done until that first water break and everything changed. He pushed the wing-backs high, the centre-backs were able to find players high up the pitch and Arsenal worked their way into the match.
My mum’s view
Arsenal manager is really good looking. Makes a change.
That’s a text I just received, for what it’s worth.
Martin Keown’s view
Outstanding. Their third manager of the season, to get through that semi and win this is outstanding. Arteta has a huge future ahead of him.
FULL TIME! ARSENAL WIN THE FA CUP!
THEY’VE DONE IT! Arsenal win the FA Cup, Mikel Arteta lifts a trophy in his first year of management. Congratulations!
90 mins+11 – Arsenal 2 Chelsea 1
Pedro leaves on a stretcher. That’s the last we’ll ever see of him in a Chelsea shirt, not a nice way to end his career in England.
But how much time do Chelsea get as a result of that to chase the equaliser?
90 mins+8 – Arsenal 2 Chelsea 1
Pedro is going to be stretchered off. He’s really hurt. Poor Chelsea, they’ve had a nightmare here.
90 mins+7 – Arsenal 2 Chelsea 1
Chelsea trying to force their way through but everyone besides Aubameyang and Nketiah are back behind the ball.
Pedro has clashed with Sokratis and might have really hurt his collarbone or shoulder. There’s no chance he’s pretending here – time is running out for Chelsea!
90 mins+5 – Arsenal 2 Chelsea 1
If anyone can make something happen in a pressure situation it’s Pedro! And here he comes… and he’s given the ball away to the goalkeeper. Arsenal shifting it forward far too quickly – they need to keep passing it around, not handing possession straight back to the team chasing a goal.
But now we see why they’re sitting deep and moving quickly forward, as Aubameyang and Nketiah try to counter against an exposed defence! Nketiah is blocked/runs into trouble and Chelsea have it again.
90 mins+3 – Arsenal 2 Chelsea 1
Oooohhh the fake Fifa noise crowd goes mildly perturbed as Bellerin runs into Alonso’s face and gifts Chelsea a corner. No booking or anything, since it was accidental.
The ball is hooked in, Martinez comes aggressively and claims it in the air, then goes down yelling in pain because he’s taken a hit to the back. Aaaaaand he’s OK.
90 mins – Arsenal 2 Chelsea 1
Barkley is booked for a bad tackle on Nketiah, putting his weight onto the Arsenal man’s ankle. Chelsea just can’t get into this, and it’s understandable with 10 men. Seven minutes of added time to come apparently.
88 mins – Arsenal 2 Chelsea 1
Luiz manages to waste some more time by coming back on the pitch before going off again to sub with Sokratis. Genius. That is high level football trolling.
86 mins – Arsenal 2 Chelsea 1
Luiz is injured and sitting down in the centre circle. I have a sneaking suspicion he may actually be OK to continue, or is being extremely sly and utilising a way to run down some time.
I am incorrect. Wrong. Again. Sokratis is getting ready to come on.
83 mins – Arsenal 2 Chelsea 1
Arsenal have a corner, which is not what Chelsea need. Pepe takes his time setting it up… and nothing comes of it. Chelsea have all the attackers in the world on the pitch but can’t get hold of the ball.
81 mins – Arsenal 2 Chelsea 1
Aaaaaaaaand I’m pretty sure Martinez just grabbed the ball outside the box. Nothing given.
78 mins – Arsenal 2 Chelsea 1
That second yellow for Kovacic is incredible. He’s gone to make a tackle, missed the ball and gently touched Xhaka’s toe. It’s not a foul even, let alone a booking.
My phone has started lighting up with people asking why VAR didn’t get involved and the answer is that they don’t interfere with yellow card decisions.
Lampard is about to send on the heroes. Barkley, Hudson-Odoi and Abraham coming on for Giroud, Rudiger and Mount. That’s a change in system to the 4-3-3 / 4-2-3-1.
75 mins – Arsenal 2 Chelsea 1
Rudiger is really wound up and there’s almost a rammy on the sidelines. Arteta is booked for getting involved. This game is one of those that you win every single time if you quit and reload on Football Manager. Everything’s going against Lampard.
Someone has been booked here… and I’m not sure who. Kovacic made the foul but is already on a yellow. The referee shows him a yellow but doesn’t send him off… so is it not him? It also seems like if it is Kovacic, that’s for a fairly innocuous… oh my god that’s ridiculous. He’s not even touched him. That’s an astonishingly bad decision by the referees. A second yellow for Kovacic, who is off! Chelsea fans must be raaaaging with that.
And now Arsenal get their drinks break. Everything’s coming up
What a finish! Brilliant from Aubameyang!!!!
Bellerin and Christensen collide outside the box and it leaves Chelsea short of a centre-back. That gives Aubameyang space outside the remaining centre-backs, he disguises a shot to dribble past Zouma and then dinks a gorgeous – nay, sexy – chip over the goalkeeper into the net at the near post. Amazing finish.
67 mins – Arsenal 1 Chelsea 1
Arsenal passing the ball around, Chelsea pressing high, Tierney chips it forward and Arsenal win the second ball. And Aubameyang is in here!
65 mins – Arsenal 1 Chelsea 1
Arsenal could do with a drinks break. Chelsea are all over them.
62 mins – Arsenal 1 Chelsea 1
Chelsea’s wing-backs are pushing really high up the pitch now, forcing Arsenal back and helping Chelsea dominate the pitch. James has had a couple of shots blocked and punted over the bar.
59 mins – Arsenal 1 Chelsea 1
Chelsea could do with finding their rhythm again. Lots of passes around the middle but nothing really going into the area.
56 mins – Arsenal 1 Chelsea 1
The tempo’s dropped a bit in the last few minutes and I’m not entirely sure why. Both teams making little errors in possession, nor are they pinging it about.
Arsenal suddenly have a chance to attack during one of these slow passages of play, and Aubameyang takes up a position in miles of space along the edge of the box. Lacazette just needs to pass this square and he’s in… but the ball bounces and bobbles and he has to take a touch. That touch is closed down and Chelsea get away with one.
54 mins – Arsenal 1 Chelsea 1
It has been drawn to my attention that the lettering on Arsenal’s shirts makes it look like they’re staff at a medieval theme park, or some sort of pirate related thing. You can sort of see it here:
Ye Olde Arsenal.
That said I like the shirts a lot. Reminds me of the scratch plates on Fender guitars.
51 mins – Arsenal 1 Chelsea 1
Pedro is coming on for Pulisic, who has to leave the pitch with the physios. Let’s hope that doesn’t become a problem for him – his pace makes him frightening to play against and a troublesome hamstring isn’t great news.
Chelsea have a corner…. but Martinez catches easily.
48 mins – Arsenal 1 Chelsea 1
Oh dear. Pulisic is on the ball, carries it a good 30 or 40 yards towards the box, then starts screaming. While he’s screaming, he manages to a take a shot on his right foot which doesn’t trouble the goalkeeper and the way he goes down in a heap afterwards makes it apparent he’s not just trying to psyche anyone out, but that his hamstring has twanged. Bad news for Chelsea.
KICK OFF 2
Arsenal have been the better team since the water break, during which I suspect Arteta told his wing-backs to be aggressive and push higher up the pitch. Ceballos and Xhaka started making tackles too, which has definitely helped. Jorginho and Kovacic aren’t going anywhere, so you might as well push up on them and make life difficult.
I could have seen Chelsea switch to their 4-3-3 at half time had they not been made to replace Azpilicueta in the first half but that just isn’t really possible now. Unless Lampard wants to humiliate Christensen and sub the sub.
Pulisic is the most likely to make something happen and they need to find a way to maximise that. Is that by getting him the ball more often, or focusing play elsewhere so he can arrive in attacking areas in space? Lampard is paid more than me and that’s why he gets to make decisions.
Socially distanced celebrating?
This is at the Box Park just down the road (literally) from Wembley stadium. At least fans can get a bit of a feel for what the atmosphere could have been like. Plus, in a way it’s better because you can have even more beers without trying to fire an entire pint inside you with the seven minute window you get at half time. Why do we do it? Because beer is nice.
Mount is booked – extremely harshly – for not winning a tackle he makes on Ceballos, who, as always, maximises any contact for every last penny he can.
45 mins +2 – Arsenal 1 Chelsea 1
Lacazette takes it and goes for the far post with a lot of power and no direction. A poor effort when you think what a technically gifted player he is.
45 mins – Arsenal 1 Chelsea 1
Arsenal’s high press is working really well now! The game has completely flipped. Pepe goes on a dribble towards the area as Lacazette makes a run ahead of him… and goes down! Pepe has twisted himself and the Chelsea defence into knots and has a free-kick on the edge of the area. Every Arsenal player wants to take this.
42 mins – Arsenal 1 Chelsea 1
Arsenal in control of possession at the moment with Pepe making things happen on the right. Chelsea’s wing-backs are being pinned back as the Arsenal forwards push high and wide. Arsenal keep up the pressure and win a corner.
40 mins – Arsenal 1 Chelsea 1
Tierney picks the ball up wide left, drives, hits an early cross to Pepe and his first touch kills the ball, allowing him to try a little trick that takes him past his man! Bellerin joins in, Pepe wants to shoot but can’t, forces a ball inside… blocked. Chelsea get away with it.
38 mins – Arsenal 1 Chelsea 1
Mount is played in with a through ball, cuts back and spots Jorginho on the edge of the box, but Alonso comes across to try and have a hit (even though as a left wing-back he probably shouldn’t be on the right side of the pitch) and puts Jorginho off. The shot rises way over the bar.
36 mins – Arsenal 1 Chelsea 1
Azpilicueta leaves the pitch in tears, hobbling 🙁
Christensen is coming on in his place, which could be problematic as he is nowhere near as quick Aubameyang. I wonder if Lampard might have to shift something around to make sure Christensen isn’t exposed by any runs in behind. Zouma seems to have moved to right centre-back, Christensen is the central defender now.
33 mins – Arsenal 1 Chelsea 1
Azpilicueta has gone down clutching the back of his leg after sprinting to keep up with Aubameyang. That could well be a hamstring… and he looks pretty distraught about it. There are tears. The physios are dealing with him now.
31 mins – Arsenal 1 Chelsea 1
Giroud has gone down howling after Luiz bumps into his back. He should be OK to go on but I’m only saying that because he’s back up and running because my medical knowledge is below minimal. Keown reckons he might be at it in an attempt to alert the referee to Luiz getting so tight to him so often.
AUBAMEYANG LEVELS THE SCORE!
Caballero goes the wrong way, Aubameyang slots it in the right of the goal.
The VAR is now looking to make sure that the foul took place inside the area… but we know there was a covering defender so it won’t be upgraded to a red.
The verdict is: penalty.
Aubameyang runs into the box, Azpilicueta chases him but can’t get round, puts his arm on his shoulder to try and get round but eventually gives Aubameyang the chance to go down. It’s a definite foul.
Arteta wants a red card for it. So do the Arsenal players.
PEPE THUMPS IT TOP CORNER! But wait, there’s an offside flag! And the replay shows that Lacazette was definitely offside when he received the ball before shifting it on to Pepe. What a hit that was.
22 mins – Arsenal 0 Chelsea 1
Arsenal have started working a little harder to win 50/50s and let Chelsea realise they’re actually in the game. It’s been too easy for Chelsea to play through them and keep the ball up until now.
21 mins – Arsenal 0 Chelsea 1
Pepe also makes a mistake so bad he should be substituted for it, trying to heel chop his way out of a dangerous situation on the edge of his own box. Had he not recovered from almost tripping himself up with a ridiculous attempt at a skill trick, Chelsea would have been clean in to score a second. But instead, he keeps possession and ends up sending Maitland-Niles through on goal wide on the left with a brilliantly weighted pass. Maitland-Niles tries a flip flap on the edge of the box and gives Azpilicueta an easy job of shielding the ball behind for a goal kick.
18 mins – Arsenal 0 Chelsea 1
Ceballos has lined up this free-kick, with Pepe standing over it too. I think Ceballos has claimed it since he won it, effectively calling dibs, and something I’m fully behind as a person who does the same thing in Sunday League.
He steps up… and hits a pretty useless shot straight down the middle over the bar. I’m not sure he’ll get the chance to hit another.
16 mins – Arsenal 0 Chelsea 1
Xhaka goes down screaming in pain after being caught heavily by Kovacic, who loses control of the ball and dives in. For a second it looked like he was in real trouble but he’s back on his feet and Kovacic has been booked.
Ceballos tries to dribble past a few tackles straight after and wins his side another free-kick closer to goal. Great feet from the midfielder to keep the ball under control with so many around him!
13 mins – Arsenal 0 Chelsea 1
Pulisic dances into the area after dribbling through about four bodies, draws more towards him and shoots, forcing Martinez into another save. Arsenal are not enjoying defending against him.
Arteta’s side get forward but can’t make use of the corner they win. Chelsea are getting their wide forwards into central positions and it is causing havoc behind Arsenal’s midfield line.
10 mins – Arsenal 0 Chelsea 1
Chelsea pressing high and Arsenal are making mistakes now. Holding hits a simple pass straight out for a throw. Chelsea easily able to win possession back at the moment.
Great play by Chelsea. Jorginho threads the ball through Arsenal’s midfield, the centre-backs are really compact and Mount can go on the outside left of them while still being in a narrow position, hits a low ball to the back post, and Arsenal just cannot deal with it. Pulisic rides a tackle, Tierney can’t make one or he’ll wipe him out, and Pulisic chips it over the goalkeeper!
5 mins – Arsenal 0 Chelsea 0
Chelsea attack quickly, Mount has an opportunity to shoot, lines up the shot and tries to curl a shot into the corner of the net. Martinez dives and catches it cleanly. Great save!
3 mins – Arsenal 0 Chelsea 0
Tierney does really well to ride a couple of challenges with a drop shoulder and chip the ball down the line. Maitland-Niles runs into space, cuts back and crosses to Aubameyang… who meets the ball at the near post! And heads wide.
The players gather round in a circle as another campaign audio/video plays out in support of people speaking out about their mental health, which I’m sure we can agree is welcome, and now I think we’re finally ready for the game.
Here come the players!
And it’s time for another song. This one about is the Queen and how she must be saved. Some very talented opera/classical singers belt the national anthem out. They finish, the empty stadium returns to silence.
Now the players are really fired up.
Abide With Me
Emili Sande, who like me is from Aberdeenshire (SHOUT OUT), is currently signing Abide With Me from the roof of Wembley. I’m not sure how she got there but she can fairly belt out a tune. This one is being sung in memory of all those who have suffered and lost lives from the coronavirus pandemic. It also serves to remind us how great it will be when crowds can return.
Frank Lampard and Mikel Arteta
Lampard is asked if anything is different as a manager going into a cup final:
Yeh. Everything is! The good is better, the bad is sometimes worse, the workload is much more. But the feeling is the same.
Arteta doesn’t get any difficult questions so can go smoothly down the middle.
Today is the day we have a great choice. We know how this club is linked with this competition, some of our playres have the experience of winning this cup so hopefully we can do it again.
The Arsenal reserve goalkeeper could well become their number one with some impressive performances since covering for Bernd Leno. I really enjoyed this interview with Sam Dean published a few days ago and highly recommend you give it a read. It’s all about how he’s had to battle the entire way for a decade to get his chance, and how high the stakes were during that journey. Plus, Sam wrote it and he’s great.
Who has the advantage?
Jason Burt went through every player in today’s starting XI (or what he assumed it would be anyway!) to rate each individual out of 10, then add that together to see who is best. But who is it? Clickety click to find out!
- Arsenal and Chelsea players ranked: Who has the advantage in FA Cup final?
No Willian or Loftus-Cheek
Both have been dealing with injuries this week and miss the cut.
As expected, both sides in 3-4-3 systems but Arsenal are playing Maitland-Niles at left wing-back rather than Saka.
A few fans hanging around Wembley
None of them will get in the stadium, or particularly near it, but that hasn’t stopped a few fans making their way to the Wembley Park tube stop and then just…. hang around. The players will all be inspired.
It’s Cup Final day
Welcome! The FA Cup, the most magical of trophies in all England, comes to an end for another season today as Arsenal take on Chelsea. It’s Arteta vs Lampard, two ex-players of the respective clubs looking to win their first trophy as manager. Who can call it?
Chelsea have the better players, team, form and league position so you’d think have a big advantage going into this… but Arsenal are much improved and more than capable of lifting the trophy. Both sides will almost certainly adopt 3-4-3 formations, with Lampard likely to mirror the system that Arteta has developed to make use of the players he has available, and Chelsea’s team in that shape is simply stronger.
Arsenal are a lot weaker defensively, with Rob Holding and David Luiz prone to error in particular. Kieran Tierney has made a real difference since joining and regaining fitness, and brings much needed knowledge of how to routinely win trophies. He won everything he competed in domestically for Celtic. Saka may well start as a left wing-back and spend most of the game attacking, something that will require Tierney providing a lot of cover.
For all the mistakes at the back, they have a really potent strike force. Aubameyang is the goal machine, Lacazette gets shouted at by Arteta a lot for not pressing as instructed, and we may even see Nicolas Pepe work his magic on the Wembley pitch.
Christian Pulisic is the danger man for Chelsea, a player who shifts the ball so quickly between both feet that defenders have a hard time working out when to time their tackles. Giroud could win a trophy at the expense of his old team, Kovacic will keep things ticking over, and the defenders will try to protect their goalkeeper. Willy Caballero will probably start over Kepa, as Lampard’s confidence in his club’s record signing drops ever deeper towards the core of earth.
Kick off is 5:30pm and you can watch the game on BBC One or BT Sport. Alternatively you can follow the action online with us right here in this liveblog, or treat us like a handy friend and read along while taking in the match.