Arsenal 4-0 Aston Villa: Absolutely Perfect Performance

Photo: BBC.co.uk


What else can you say other than "Fuck yeah!!!!"

Look, I'm going to be honest with you - I have multiple people who can back me up on this, but I always knew we were going to win today. Villa are a much better side than their record showed this season, but the simple fact is that we are significantly better than them, and barring any kind of significant goof-up, we were always going to annihilate them.

As it turns out, Arsene decided to play Wojciech Szczesny in goal, and Theo Walcott up top. The rest of the XI was basically as you were. Whatever the thoughts of the most hysterical of our fanbase, both were the right moves for this particular match.

(Side Note:  If you are wondering why I've not done so many match reports lately, or shown up to the pub for that many matches, I've frankly been burned out by the dumber sections of our own supporter base. You know, the "DUUURRRR, OZIL IS SHIT", "DURRRR, SZCZESNY IS SHIT" fucking morons. I don't mean to be a downer on what should be a happy occasion, so I'll kill it here, but those people really have beaten me down over the last few months.)

Anyway, I had predicted a easy-peasy 2-0 win where we were never in trouble, but I had no idea how wrong I was going to be. In truth, it was all even easier than that, where the Arsenal dominated every facet of the match on the way to one of the easier FA Cup final wins in quite some time.

Also, for those mentally-challenged folks that assumed that Szczesny had turned into Helen Keller on the back of one bad match against Southampton, he came up with two absolutely crucial punches on high balls into his area. On at least one of them, I'm not so sure that David Ospina would have gotten there. And, who knows how that would have changed the match if they had scored there?

That said, it did take some time for our boys to get on the board. But, if you've ever played this game, you could see the signs coming from parsecs away. Everything about Villa's game was desperate, from the yellow cards for breaking up scoring chances to the fortunate blocks on the goal line, or the admittedly excellent saves from Shay Given.

Still, I always thought it was a great development that Tim Sherwood decided to play his second-best goalkeeper on the day, and sure enough that told on our first goal. It wasn't Given's fault per se, but I do think that Brad Guzan may have had a much better shot at it.

It was right before halftime when Nacho Monreal crossed into the box. Alexis Sanchez won the header, cushioning it into the path of Walcott. Jores Okore was screening his own goalkeeper, which made Theo's job that much easier. He just lashed it towards the near post, and the unsighted Given's hand was a few seconds too late in getting in front of it. That said, I can't help but think that the taller Guzan may have been able to keep that out.

The goal made things that much easier going into halftime, although I feel that our boys would have handled their business even if it had been 0-0 going into the interval. By way of proving that point, we were two goals to the good just five minutes after the restart. Man, it came out of nothing, too. After a spell of early Villa pressure, we went up the other end and Sanchez had the ball a good 30 yards away from goal. He made himself a yard and hit an absolute thunderbastard of a shot, the swerve of which made it absolutely unsaveable. Seriously, Thor standing on Odin's shoulders would have had no shot at that.

What a goal, and what a time for it. If Villa thought they may have had a shot of getting back into this thing, that strike clearly disavowed them of any such notion.

Poor old Sherwood tried to change things around by introducing Gabriel Agbonlahor, but the simple fact is that their personnel just didn't matter. Arsenal did such a great job of holding onto the ball, their lot could have had George Best, Pele and Ferenc Puskas up top and it wouldn't have done them any good at all. Sure enough, the Gunners put the game to bed right around the hour mark. We won a corner, and Santi Cazorla's fabulous delivery was nodded home by the Big Fucking German himself, Per Mertesacker. For all of the stick that he has undeservedly gotten this season, it was great to see him score such an important goal.

Honestly, from that point, the match was over. All that remained was to determine what the final score would be. I hoped beyond hope that Szczesny would get a clean sheet, if for no other reason than to stick it in the face of all the absolute bell-ends that treated him like he was the second coming of Massimo Taibbi. Thankfully, it turned out that he would get it...although, in fairness, he didn't actually face a single shot on goal all day.

Jack Wilshere and Olivier Giroud came on for cameos, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was brought on right at the death in injury time. The latter two ended up combining for the goal that put the exclamation point on the afternoon. Ox worked the ball down the right, and crossed it into the box. Giroud ghosted past the static Villa backline, and and flicked it in past the helpless Given at his near post.

That, for the record, was another instance in which an Arsenal player who has gotten a ridiculous amount of unwarranted stick stuck two fingers up at his idiotic detractors. Actually, today's whole game was largely a scathing denunciation of the dumber parts of our fanbase.

Anyway, the final whistle soon came, and the FA Cup was Arsenal's for a record 12th time. It has to be said that Arsenal - and Arsene Wenger - enjoys this competition and truly has taken the chances when they've arrived...at least in recent times (historical losses against the likes of Swindon and Wrexham aside)..

Hopefully, the majority of Gooners out there treat this as the massively fun day that it is. Trophies are always good, and I personally love the hell out of this competition. And, let's be honest with ourselves - as rough as the beginning of this season was, we are not 5 or 6 or 7 players away from threatening for the title. To surmise otherwise is, well, just plain fucking stupid. Give us competition for Giroud and Francis Coquelin, and that shitbird Jose Mourinho will have a LOT to think about this off-season.

Anyway, for the second time in two seasons, we have a trophy. Let's enjoy it, let's enjoy our summer, and see you all again in late August.


The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:

Szczesny 8, Monreal 8, Koscielny 8, Mertesacker 8, Bellerin 8, Cazorla 8, Coquelin 8, Sanchez 8 (Oxlade-Chamberlain N/A), Ozil 8 (Wilshere 7), Ramsey 7, Walcott 8 (Giroud 7)

Man of the Match: Fuck it, everyone in a yellow shirt today. They all were awesome.


Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Aston Villa, FA Cup Final


Wembley Stadium, London
Saturday, May 30
12:30 p.m. EDT, 17:30 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Jonathan Moss
    • Assistants: Darren England and Simon Bennett
    • 4th Official: Craig Pawson
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 79 Arsenal wins, 66 Aston Villa wins, 45 draws
  • All-Time in the FA Cup: 7 Arsenal wins, 3 Aston Villa wins, 3 draws
  • Arsenal's Path Here
    • Third Round: Beat Hull City, 2-0
    • Fourth Round: Beat Brighton and Hove Albion, 3-2
    • Fifth Round: Beat Middlesbrough, 2-0
    • Sixth Round: Beat Manchester United, 2-1
    • Semi-Final: Beat Reading, 2-1 after extra time
  • Aston Villa's Path Here
    • Third Round: Beat Blackpool, 1-0
    • Fourth Round: Beat Bournemouth, 2-1
    • Fifth Round: Beat Leicester City, 2-1
    • Sixth Round: Beat West Bromwich Albion, 2-0
    • Semi-Final: Beat Liverpool, 2-1
  • Arsenal's League Form: D-W-L-D-D-W
  • Aston Villa's League Form: W-L-W-W-L-L
Arsenal last won consecutive FA Cup titles in 2002 and 2003,
the latter celebration pictured here.
It's been a weird season, for both of these clubs. I remember a Tim Stillman column, possibly a year or two back, postulating that there have been only two types of Arsenal seasons since the move to the Emirates: the one where Arsenal start strong and their title hopes collapse in the spring and the one where Arsenal start weak and they scratch-and-claw their way into a Champions League spot.

Last season was the former, this season was the latter. In the end, Arsenal finished with 75 points, four points fewer than last season but one place higher in the table. Still, the mood around the club is positive, thanks to an excellent spring run coupled with the avoidance of August's Champions League qualifier. Some, however, will choose to be negative over the fact that Arsenal never truly challenged for the title this season. There's no middle ground with Arsenal fandom, is there?

For Aston Villa, they survived relegation by just three points, sacked their manager in February, and at one point went over six league matches without scoring a goal. They've been better under Tim Sherwood, however, and will relish their position as underdogs in this final. They're playing with house money.

There's less pressure on Arsenal in this year's final, since "one year without a trophy" doesn't have the same ring as nine. Still, a loss would be a massive disappointment for the club.

The FA Cup has been successfully defended on eight previous occasions; Arsenal themselves accomplished the feat in 2002 and 2003. A win tomorrow would make them the fourth club to achieve that accomplishment more than once, along with Wanderers F.C., Blackburn Rovers, and Tottenham Hotspur.

So, that would be one less thing they could say they have over us.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Welbeck (knee)
Doubts: Debuchy (hamstring,) Arteta (match fitness)

Wojciech Szczesny stares off into the distance, wondering if
he will get the start in goal.
The discussion of Arsenal's potential matchday squad is simplest when discussing the injury list, which is refreshing. Danny Welbeck is the only certain absence, his knee injury keeping him out of action. It's a shame that he'll miss the final, as his winning goal at Old Trafford will leave an indelible mark on this cup run.

There are other doubts in the squad as well, though everyone else is at least back in training. I just don't see an appearance on the cards for Mikel Arteta, or starts for Mathieu Debuchy or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, the latter of whom looked a bit rusty in a 15-minute cameo last week.

So, that means the difficult part of the squad discussion comes down to actual player selection. There are certain selections that are obvious. Debuchy's injury means Hector Bellerin will start at right back. Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny will start as the center back pairing. Francis Coquelin, Santi Cazorla, Mesut Ozil, and Alexis Sanchez should all start in midfield.

As for the other four positions... Will Arsene Wenger stick with Wojciech Szczesny as his cup keeper or go with his number one, David Ospina? Will Nacho Monreal return at left back or will Kieran Gibbs, who has started the last two matches, retain his place? Will Aaron Ramsey or Jack Wilshere start? Will Olivier Giroud or Theo Walcott start? Will it be some mix-and-match two of the four of them? Ramsey up top! Walcott deep! Mayhem!

Predicted XI: Szczesny, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Ozil, Alexis, Ramsey, Giroud.

Aston Villa Squad News

Out: Steer (cup tied,) Herd (knee,) Clark (knee,) Kozak (back)
Doubts: Given (groin,) Okore (knee,) Richardson (calf)

Jed Steer played last weekend for Villa, but will not be
available in goal tomorrow. So much for giving your cup
final keeper a run out in the last regular season game...
Aston Villa have a few more injuries to contend with than Arsenal. To start, they have a similar question in goal: start their number one (Brad Guzan) or go with their cup keeper (Shay Given)? To complicate this, Given missed last week's match with a groin injury, so perhaps Tim Sherwood's mind will be made up for him. Third-choice keeper Jed Steer started in Villa's 1-0 loss to Burnley last week, but he's cup tied for this match, as he played in the FA Cup for Yeovil Town while out on loan. In addition, Kieran Richardson is a doubt at left back with a calf strain. Jores Okore is a doubt at center back with a knee problem.

Three players are out completely through injury: Chris Herd and Ciaran Clark will both miss out through knee injuries, while Libor Kozak is out with a back injury.

Predicted XI: Guzan, Bacuna, Vlaar, Baker, Richardson, Delph, Westwood, Cleverley, Grealish, Agbonlahor, Benteke.

Arsenal's Season in Brief Review

Arsenal's 2-0 win at the Etihad meant progress was made
in some form this season, even without a title challenge.
Arsenal's early season struggles were marked by draws in matches they should have won, a condition largely exacerbated by the broken leg Olivier Giroud suffered in the second league match of the season. While Arsenal were unbeaten in their first six league matches, they had only won two of them, and a 2-0 defeat at Chelsea left the Gunners in 8th at the October international break.

November was not kind to Arsenal, as it rarely is, and their 3-3 draw against Anderlecht in the Champions League condemned them to a second place finish in the group. After consecutive losses to Swansea and Manchester United, the Gunners were still in 8th after 12 league games. Two straight wins brightened things up a little, but a 3-2 loss at Stoke on December 6 marked, arguably, the season's nadir.

The return of Olivier Giroud to the lineup meant Arsenal started to rattle off more wins, though the three-match ban he took at the end of the 2014 calendar year meant that Arsenal struggled without his influence a bit more, en route to a New Year's Day loss at Southampton. Arsenal still sat 6th in the table with 18 matches left to play.

The noisy neighbors started talking of a power shift when they won at the Lane on February 7, but that match was Arsenal's only league loss over a 12-match span; the Gunners won the remaining 11 and had second place in their sights by the end of April. Unfortunately, their league success did not follow them to Europe; Arsenal crashed out of the Champions League knockout phase at the first hurdle for the fifth season in a row, this time to Monaco.

Arsenal won just twice in their final six league matches, all following their FA Cup semi-final win at Wembley, to essentially stumble from second to third, but if they can retain the FA Cup title with a win tomorrow, their season (and the avoidance of next year's Champions League playoff) has got to be considered a step forward.

Aston Villa's Season in Brief Review

Paul Lambert saw some things this season, man.
You may not remember it now, but Aston Villa were unbeaten in their first four league games, winning three of them, including a 1-0 win at Anfield, though they were unceremoniously dumped out of the League Cup at the first hurdle by Leyton Orient. Arsenal defeated the Villans 3-0 the week after the Villa win in Liverpool, which turned out to be the first of six consecutive losses. Villa followed that with three straight draws. They had 10 points on September 13. They had 13 points on November 29.

Two straight wins, over Crystal Palace and Leicester, briefly bounced Villa to 11th in the table. They then went another 12 without a win, drawing three of the first five in that run before losing seven straight. They went over six matches (specifically, 659 minutes) without a goal during the winless stretch. On February 11, Paul Lambert was sacked.

In early March, Villa beat local rivals West Brom twice in one week, first in the league to snap their losing streak, then in the FA Cup sixth round to punch their ticket to Wembley for the first time since their semi-final loss in 2010.

Under the guidance of Tim Sherwood, Villa won five out of nine league matches after the seven-match losing streak, giving them enough points for safety. During that stretch, they defeated Liverpool in the FA Cup Semi-Final to earn their spot in tomorrow's final. Unfortunately, they ended the league season on a down note, capitulating 6-1 to Southampton and 1-0 to last place Burnley.

Match Facts

Arsenal's 5-0 win over Villa at the Emirates was their largest
margin of victory of the season.
Arsenal won the two league meetings between these two sides this season by a combined 8-0 scoreline. At Villa Park in September, Arsenal scored three goals in four minutes via Mesut Ozil, Danny Welbeck, and an Aly Cissokho own goal. That was plenty enough for the Gunners as they maintained over 70% of the possession against a Villa side that was battling through a few illnesses.

Villa had no excuses at the Emirates in February, however, as they had more than half of the possession but generated just two shots on target. Arsenal led on eight minutes through Olivier Giroud but did not open the floodgates until near the hour mark. Mesut Ozil doubled Arsenal's lead in the 56th minute, Theo Walcott made it three in the 63rd, Santi Cazorla made it four from the penalty spot in the 75th, and Hector Bellerin opened his account to make it 5-0 in injury time.

The Villans have just three wins in their last 34 matches against Arsenal across all competitions; bizarrely, all three of those wins have come at the Emirates.

Previous FA Cup Ties

Arsenal's last FA Cup tie against Villa featured a two-goal
comeback. I forgot about that weird "Forward" crest we had
that season.
Arsenal and Aston Villa have met 10 times in the FA Cup; Arsenal have won seven of the ten ties. Three matches ended drawn and required replays; Arsenal won two of the three replays played.

The clubs most recently met in the fourth round in 2012 at the Emirates. Arsenal trailed 2-0 at halftime after goals from Richard Dunne and Darren Bent, but stormed back with three goals in seven minutes, including two from the penalty spot.

Prior to that, the clubs had not met in the FA Cup since 1983 and they have never met later than the sixth round. Arsenal's seven wins came in 1926 in a replay, 1928, 1931 in a replay, 1954, 1956, 1983, and 2012. Aston Villa's three wins came in 1929, 1934, and 1974 in a replay.

The Referee

How the hell is this green stuff supposed to keep up?
The referee is West Yorkshire-based Jonathan Moss. Moss's appointment has been considered an odd political decision by the Football Association, as rumor has it the FA does not want Mark Clattenburg to be the English appointee to the Euros next summer. On the other hand, Clattenburg had to pull out of working Arsenal's match last weekend with an injury, so maybe the whole controversy is moot. Remember, a referee may only take charge of one FA Cup Final in their career.

Arsenal have seen Moss in nine competitive fixtures all-time and they have won all nine of them. Two of those matches were this season: the opening day 2-1 win over Crystal Palace, aided by an 89th minute Jason Puncheon red card, and the 3-0 win over Stoke in January, in which he failed to sanction Marko Arnautovic for the shove that cost Mathieu Debuchy three months with a separated shoulder.

Arsenal are not completely unbeaten with Moss in the middle, as he did take charge of a 2013 Emirates Cup match against Galatasaray, in which he awarded the visitors a dubious penalty following a Didier Drogba tumble, en route to their taking the title.

Aston Villa have an all-time record of six wins, five losses, and two draws with Moss in the middle. One of the five losses was to Arsenal, at Villa Park on December 21, 2011, when Yossi Benayoun scored a late winner from a corner. All four of Villa's other losses with Moss as referee have been lopsided: 4-1 to Southampton and 5-0 to Manchester City in 2012; 4-0 and 3-0 to Tottenham last year, the former coming in the League Cup.

Villa have seen Moss twice this season, first for a 0-0 draw at West Ham in January and most recently for a 2-1 win over West Bromwich Albion in March.

On a personal level, Moss was born in Sunderland but played football in the United States in college, for Central Connecticut State, before coming back to England and completing his education at the University of Leeds. He also played junior level football for Sunderland and Millwall before quitting to focus on his studies. His first Premier League refereeing appointment was supposed to be an Aston Villa match, against Wigan Athletic, but it was postponed by snow. His first match ended up being a Birmingham City win over Blackpool in January of 2011.

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John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and is super excited for summer break this year, you guys. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat, so you can keep in touch with him over the break. Maybe we'll have a pool party, or something.