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FA Cup success puts Arsenal on brink of new era

CUP KINGS: Arsenal lift the FA Cup again last Saturday

ARSENE WENGER, he's got his critics hasn't he ? But when you set your standards as high as he has since his 1996 arrival in England, anything short of silverware will be looked on as a regressive step.

So Saturday's 4-0 FA Cup Final thrashing of Aston Villa, coupled with a third placed Premier League finish represents progress by anyone's standards. Wenger is now alone with having won a record sixth FA Cup, one more than Alex Ferguson, with the Gunners having won a record twelve FA Cups in nineteen appearances.

Put that into the context of not having lifted silverware in nine years prior to the 2014 FA Cup Final win over Hull City, Wenger now has an average of two trophies over the last decade. Shall we call it one in five?

Of course the three Premier titles which Arsenal won under Wenger were great triumphs, and given that the last title was won in the 2004, year of the Invincibles, that will be his side's focus next season.

The Gunners boss accepted that ahead of last Saturday's FA Cup Final, he had agonised over who to select in attack and also in goal.

Theo Walcott got the nod over Olivier Giroud and duly delivered Arsenal's opener. His sheer pace and movement gave the Villa defence too much to cope with, and further goals with Alexis Sanchez's stunner, Per Mertersacker's header and substitute Giroud's near post flick did the damage on a Midlands side who had no shots on or off target for the entire game.

In goal, Wenger elected to stick with Wojciech Szczesny who is taller than David Ospina, and any aerial advantage when facing Christian Benteke is worth having.

Not that Szczesny had too much to worry about as Villa also elected to keep Gabriel Agbonlahor on the bench. By the time the Birmingham born self confessed Villa fan can on, it was too late.


OPENING STATEMENT: Theo Walcott celebrates scoring his team's first goal

Ahead of the Final, Villa manager Tim Sherwood spoke of the time he was linked with a move to the Gunners, and as he almost held back the tears at the final whistle, he knew that Villa face a massive rebuilding job if they are to avert another relegation battle.

The 6-1 mauling at Southampton and the 1-0 home loss to Burnley was an unwelcome last two Premier League results, but having secured their top flight lifeline by then, a fading team was always going to struggle against an Arsenal side who showed no mercy.

Sherwood accepted that Villa had been beaten by the better side, and as Wenger gave his post match thoughts, Sherwood was being led behind a separating sponsors screen, wheeling his baggage and away from the awaiting written media scrum. Taxi for Sherwood? Not quite. He's a talented young manager who deserves a real go with his own players.

At the other end of the spectrum, Wenger will spend a summer contemplating how to wrestle back the English Champions' title.

Having the glint of FA Cup silverware fresh in the memory and the promise of more to come from his young side suggest that next season's title race may be too close to call.

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