The Arsenal we know and love was on full display Saturday. They showed a blend of industry, guile, and fluid attacking football that helped me fall in love with this team over a decade ago. Regardless of whether or not you feel Alexis’ early goal should have stood, you can’t argue that we were the better team on the pitch and well deserved the title of FA Cup Winners.
Football games are generally analyzed and eventually remembered through the prism of big moments, usually goals and assists. But football is so much more than just these macro moments, as so many other critical moments were on display during the Cup Final. Here is a visual look at 5 of the smaller moments that helped Arsenal exert its superiority over Chelsea.
10’: Xhaka Support
Our new system has led to the instillation of many team values, one of which is the extra support Xhaka has around him. Just as Cazorla, Arteta, and Fabregas have been in recent years, Xhaka is now our structural base and we need to play to his strengths.
This example shows how Xhaka is allowed to sit centrally due to viable options around him:
He wins the header from a central area and later receives the ball in the same spot, allowing us to transition and attack without having to cover too much ground. He now has bodies around him to do his running for him.
11’: Ozil as the 3rd Midfield Body
It was beautiful to watch Arsenal personnel interchange and take turns providing an extra midfield body to constantly outnumber Chelsea in that area of the pitch. Our wingbacks, Alexis, Ramsey, and Ozil, made it very tough for Matic and Kante to decipher where the next option would come from. This clip shows Ozil coming deeper, dropping a shoulder, and helping transition us into the attacking 3rd:
26’: The Welbz Outlet
Upon rewatching the game, I lost count after 10 instances of Danny Welbeck being used as an outlet and/or holdup option. This example is just one of many I had to choose from:
His ability to hold the ball under duress and at a numerical disadvantage was immense. Even when he wasn’t able to keep the ball, Welbeck was a threat running channels and stretching the Chelsea back line. Furthermore, his closing down of the goalkeeper and defenders made Chelsea really struggle to build play from the back. For these reasons, Danny Welbeck was my man of the match.
30’: Defending as a Unit
Hazard receives the ball in space on the left flank and we proceed to get numbers behind the ball and defend him as a team. The awareness of defensive distances and shifting of responsibility from one player to the next is evident as we force him horizontally across the pitch and into a back pass to Matic. We rotationally man-marked him for large chunks of the game to help neutralize his threat. We handled Hazard so well throughout the whole game:
37’: Winning the Central Midfield Battle
Our improved team shape of the last few months has led to players being in better positions to win balls in the heart of the pitch. It was very much a collective effort on Saturday as the likes of Ramsey, Xhaka, Welbeck, Sanchez, and even Ozil helped dominate centrally. Xhaka’s win here leads to a free-kick in a dangerous area:
When we look back on this game we’ll remember big moments like the contentious Alexis goal, the Holding head tap towards Costa, the Moses dive, the Ozil slide tackle on Hazard, and the Ramsey winner. These moments will resonate forever and deservedly so. While this triumph is still fresh in our memories, I urge you to take a step back and appreciate the little moments. The moments that may not endure the test of time but were just as vital to this immense result.
31 year old based in the U.S. I am an elementary school teacher by day whose passion for teaching is only rivaled by a love for the Arsenal. I release a weekly piece each Tuesday that is oftentimes analytical but sometimes eccentric. Founder of the U.S. supporters group Syracuse Gooners (www.cusegooners.com). I enjoy interacting with any and all Arsenal-based opinions on Twitter. Have a younger brother who chose to support Spurs. Fielding suggestions for ways to disown him.