Arsenal fought back from a goal down to beat Chelsea 2-1 in the 2020 FA Cup final, in a brilliantly entertaining battle at Wembley stadium.
The Blues took the lead inside five minutes, when Olivier Giroud’s neat flick found the feet of Christian Pulisic, who danced beyond a challenge and fired home from close range. Arsenal responded well, with Nicolas Pepe curling home an excellent strike from a lovely team move, only for his effort to be ruled out for an offside infringement.
Mikel Arteta’s men did draw level on 28 minutes however, when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was hauled down inside the penalty area by Cesar Azpilicueta, and the Gabon international coolly converted the subsequent spot-kick.
Chelsea dominated the early exchanges of the second half, but the Gunners took the lead with 20 minutes to play, when Aubameyang jinked down the outside of his marker and dinked the ball beyond Willy Caballero.
Mateo Kovacic was then given his marching orders for a controversial second yellow card to deepen the Blues’ woes, and Frank Lampard’s men struggled to get a foothold in the match from then on. Arsenal defended resolutely and held on to claim their 14th FA Cup success, and the first of Mikel Arteta’s reign.
Arsenal supporters must be sick to death of the transfer rumours that surround Aubameyang’s future, but the Gabonese star is showing no signs of itching for a move. In fact, he is beginning to really develop a great relationship with his fellow forwards, Alexandre Lacazette and Pepe. The trio took a while to get going in this match, but once they found their groove, there was no stopping them.
The first warning shot came shortly before the equalising goal, when a series of intricate passes, dainty touches and dummies saw the ball arrive to Pepe, who finished wonderfully – but the assistant’s flag ended the celebrations. That didn’t deter the Gunners though, who had smelt blood. The trident combined wonderfully at times, with their Ivorian winger using his trickery and in-swinging crosses to wreak havoc in the Chelsea backline, while Aubameyang’s pace caused Azpilicueta to concede a penalty and pull a hamstring.
In Lacazette, Arsenal also possess an excellent focal point, and the Frenchman caused the Chelsea centre-backs all sorts of problems with his physical presence and hold-up play. The Gunners’ winning goal stemmed from Lacazette’s movement, Pepe’s intelligence to pick out Aubameyang, and the striker’s clinical nature. The best of all worlds.
Starting XI: Martinez (7); Holding (8), Luiz (7), Tierney (8); Bellerin (8), Ceballos (8), Xhaka (7), Maitland-Niles (8); Pepe (8), Aubameyang (9), Lacazette (8)
Substitutes: Nketiah (6), Sokratis (N/A), Kolasinac (N/A)
When you have this man in your team, anything is possible. Plenty of people may have raised their eyebrows when Aubameyang was named Arsenal captain, but he delivered another skipper’s performance against Chelsea. For a predatory striker to be running the channels and putting in the hard yards down the left-flank, it speaks volumes of his character, and how much he believes in this project.
Aubameyang’s performance was all about effort and commitment, and his first half display was rewarded with a goal, after putting his devastating speed to good use to win a spot-kick. He was equally as deadly in the second half too, making up for squandering one fluffed opportunity by producing a moment of genuine class, ghosting beyond his marker and calmly chipping home.
Desire, hunger and quality. But most of all, a big game player.
Chelsea have been one of the main entertainers in this Premier League campaign, but that fun factor has come at a price. Defensively, the Blues have hurtled from one disaster to another, and in an FA Cup final, there can be no rooms for errors. Unfortunately, there were plenty of them.
After a solid enough opening half an hour, Azpilicueta got the ball rolling by pulling Aubameyang to the ground in the box, after being caught out of position and getting burnt for pace. The Spaniard then went off injured, and the arrival of Andreas Christensen did little to calm the nerves. Arsenal pressed high up the pitch, catching Chelsea in possession and hitting simple balls over the top which the Blues couldn’t live with.
The capitulation was complete in the second half, when Arsenal’s front three pulled all three centre-backs out of position, allowing Aubameyang to bag the all-important second goal. Work to be done, if Chelsea are to compete for the title next year.
Starting XI: Caballero (6); Azpilicueta (5), Zouma (6), Rudiger (5); James (6), Jorginho (6), Kovacic (5), Alonso (5); Mount (7), Pulisic (8), Giroud (7)
Substitutes: Christensen (5), Pedro (6), Abraham (5), Hudson-Odoi (6), Barkley (6),
He may have only played just over 45 minutes of this game, but Pulisic did more in that time than any other Chelsea player achieved over the entire match. The 21-year-old terrified this Arsenal backline, bursting through with his driving runs and unstoppable strength.
His first half endeavours were rewarded with a superb goal which he started and finished, and he could have had one or two more, if not for some expert goalkeeping by Martinez. How different would this game have been, had Pulisic not injured himself when through on goal, meaning he was forced off the pitch as soon as the second half began.
A cruel end to a fantastic campaign for the starlet.
With their 2-1 victory, Arsenal have earned the right to face Premier League champions Liverpool in the Community Shield at the end of August.
Chelsea will have to bounce back from this disappointment, when they travel to Germany to face Bayern in the Champions League on 8 August.