Arsenal were deserved winners of a gloriously entertaining final, as Arsene Wenger became the most successful FA Cup manager of all time.
Related: ‘No one gave us a chance here, and we responded,’ says Arséne Wenger
Related: Arsenal 2-1 Chelsea: how the FA Cup final players rated
Here’s Daniel Taylor’s match report from Wembley:
Related: Aaron Ramsey fires Arsenal to FA Cup final win over 10-man Chelsea
Arsenal lift the 2017 FA Cup! The club captain Laurent Koscielny shares the honour with Per Mertesacker, who was outstanding today. He hadn’t started a game in 392 days, and then played like that. Astonishing! The ticker tape comes down on the parade, as everyone takes their turn in lifting the old pot. It’s just reward: they were all magnificent. Chelsea by contrast weren’t at the races, uncharacteristically outfoxed and outfought. Seems doubles aren’t so easy to land after all, and Antonio Conte still hasn’t won a final as manager. Still, their brilliant league season will keep them warm at night when today’s disappointment fades. But this is all about Arsenal, record 13-time winners of the cup, and Arsene Wenger: the greatest FA Cup manager of all time.
Arsene Wenger speaks! “It was an outstanding performance from the first minute onwards. This team has suffered, united, and responded. I said last week this team will win the championship with one or two good buys, and keep them together. They showed strength and we played spectacular football today to win the game. I am very proud [to win seven FA Cups] because you see the fight you need even to win one. I am proud of doing two things that have never been done: to win a championship without losing a game, and to win seven FA Cups. It is not easy, believe me.” And will he be here next season? “We have a board meeting on Tuesday, and all will be clear on Wednesday or Thursday.”
Aaron Ramsey, who can file today’s winner alongside the one he scored against Hull in 2014, speaks! “It’s been an up-and-down season, but to finish it with an FA Cup has to make it a successful one. I just love this competition. The boys deserve it, and I’m happy for the manger, I’m delighted. He’s been fantastic for me, fantastic for these players. Fair play to him, he’s changed the system and it’s paid off. So hopefully he’ll be here next season, because we owe him a lot.”
Wenger allows a huge grin to play across his face. After all the flak he’s taken this season, this is lovely to see. He’s warmly congratulated by Conte, sportsmanship in full effect. And then he’s embraced by his players, who were to a man beyond excellent today, and richly deserve their success. Chelsea – the brilliant English champions – simply weren’t allowed to strut their stuff today. Arsenal did a comprehensive number on them … and now the famous old north London club stands as the most successful in the history of the oldest club competition in the world.
A simply wonderful final comes to an end! Arsenal win their 13th FA Cup, most deservedly so: they’ve been brilliant today. And that’s their manager’s seventh. That Arsene Wenger, he’s not half bad, huh?
90 min +3: The man-of-the-match Sanchez is replaced by Elneny.
90 min +2: Bellerin hammers a clearance up the right flank. Ozil throws another outrageous dummy to buy a load more time.
90 min +1: The free kick’s taken quickly. Ozil is found clear on the edge of the box! But he pauses before shooting, and Kante nicks the ball off him.
90 min +1: Sanchez dribbles down the left and purchases a cheap free kick off Batshuayi. Tick, tock, tick, tock.
90 min: Giroud takes down a high ball on the edge of the Chelsea box, and instantly turns it round the corner, down the right channel for Ramsey. He’s in, but his shot is not good. Chelsea will have four minutes to save themselves.
88 min: The corner comes to nothing. Batshuayi comes on for Costa.
87 min: And how did this stay out?!?! Ozil enters the Chelsea area from the right, sells Cahill an outrageous dummy, and free, eight yards out, hammers a low shot off the base of the right-hand post. The ball comes back off Courtois, and out for a corner. Wow!
86 min: Kante shoots from distance. Nope. Mertesacker looks to chest and clear, but he’s barged out of the road by Costa, who slaps hard goalwards. Ospina somehow parries, and the ball’s cleared. How was that not a goal?!
85 min: Bellerin backs himself in a footrace with Luiz, knocking the ball past the Chelsea defender and breezing into the box. He shoots low, hard, across Courtois and inches wide of the left-hand post. You wouldn’t bet too much money on this ending 2-1, would you.
83 min: Coquelin wastes no time in getting himself booked, after kicking the ball away after conceding a garden-variety free kick in the centre circle. This match has been gloriously bonkers.
82 min: Willian takes the set piece himself. Luiz races in at the near post, but can only plant his header well wide of the target. Arsenal make another change, removing Oxlade-Chamberlain and sending on Coquelin.
81 min: Willian skips down the right wing and passes a tiring Xhaka. The Arsenal man tugs the winger’s shirt, and goes in the book. This is a free kick that’s basically a corner.
Giroud’s first act is to latch onto a Sanchez pass down the left and chip it into the middle, where Ramsey sends a downward header into the bottom right! Arsenal, almost immediately, are back in front! What drama here, to borrow some BBC commentary from the 1979 five-minute final!
78 min: Arsenal respond by sending on Giroud for Welbeck.
Out of nothing! Chelsea ping it around awhile. Willian, dropping deep, pings the ball towards Costa, 12 yards out and level with the left-hand post. He taps it to his right, past Holding, and hooks a slow shot goalwards. It takes a nick off Mertesacker, but should still be saved by Ospina. But it squeaks into the bottom left! All in super-slow motion! Brilliant opportunism by Costa!
75 min: Chelsea are keeping busy and scurrying around quite a lot, but passes aren’t quite sticking in the final third. It’s been that sort of day for them. So far. “After Arsene introduces David Moyes, can he say ‘Wenger out’, drop the mic Obama style and stride off to the stadium speakers blasting Ennio Morricone?” wonders Andy Gordon.
74 min: Hazard makes good down the right and earns a corner. Cahill gets up to win a captain’s header, but only succeeds in skittling his pal Luiz and sending the ball high and wide.
73 min: Chelsea are a goal and a man down, and the clock is no longer their friend. Accordingly, Pedro is replaced by Willian.
71 min: Oxlade-Chamberlain reaches the byline out on the left. He can’t find the angle to shoot, so cuts back for Sanchez, whose effort is blocked. Arsenal come again, and this time Oxlade-Chamberlain blasts wildly over the bar from distance. Chelsea are reeling right now.
70 min: And there Chelsea were, pressing Arsenal back. Now Arsenal have a renewed spring in their step.
68 min: This is rank stupidity from Moses. He skitters inside from the right and into the Arsenal area. He drops a shoulder to pass Oxlade-Chamberlain, and should have a dig, but instead goes to ground under a non-existent challenge. For a second the Chelsea fans celebrate a penalty; then the Arsenal fans celebrate the fifth sending off in an FA Cup final, because that’s his second booking in 11 minutes. The champions are up against it now!
67 min: Chelsea begin to press Arsenal back, but to little effect. Here’s Matt Dony’s prediction: “An Arsenal victory, followed by Wenger taking the mic and announcing his retirement, and introducing David Moyes as ‘Your new manager.’” Neutrals: you’d pay good money, wouldn’t you.
65 min: Ramsey and Welbeck combine crisply down the left to cause Chelsea concern. Welbeck enters the area and rolls the ball across for Bellerin, romping in from the right. Bellerin looks to guide one into the bottom left, but his sidefoot is snaffled by Courtois. Chelsea stream upfield, Fabregas having a wild slash at the ball from the edge of the box. This continues to be an FA Cup final of free-flowing, open, devil-may-care attacking entertainment. How we’ve only had one goal is a mystery.
63 min: Some brilliance from Ozil out on the right. He scampers after a ball near the touchline, and sells Cahill a subtle dummy with a drop of the shoulder before he’s even taken up possession. Then he very nearly releases Welbeck down the middle with an outside-of-foot low curler. Just a bit too much juice on it.
61 min: A corner for Arsenal out on the right doesn’t lead to very much. But they come straight back at Chelsea, Oxlade-Chamberlain twisting down the left and nearly creating an opening. After a slow start to the second half, Arsenal are beginning to threaten again. Chelsea respond by replacing Matic with the former Arsenal captain Fabregas. His reception is mixed, much as you’d imagine.
59 min: Matic sprays a stunning diagonal pass towards Moses out on the right. Moses cuts inside and feeds Pedro, who tries to curl one into the bottom left. Ospina is rooted, and he’d have been beaten were the shot on target. But it’s wide left, and a goal kick. Arsenal make their way up the other end, and once again tease a booking out of Chelsea, Kante clipping Ramsey late and seeing yellow.
57 min: A right-wing probe by Azpilicueta causes a bit of trouble in the Arsenal box. It leads to a corner which comes to naught. Welbeck tries to break up the other end, and is hauled back by Moses out on the left wing. That’s a booking.
55 min: … Arsenal break upfield with Chelsea light at the back. Bellerin is in acres down the right, and he’s got men in the middle. But the cross is dismal, and Courtois can gather ahead of Sanchez and Welbeck. Arsenal could easily have scored five or six goals so far. Nobody’s perfect, but they should certainly have scored more than one. Will they be made to pay for their failure to convert dominance into goals?
54 min: Costa has a yard on Holding as the two chase a long ball down the left. Holding clips the striker’s ankle, just to the side of the area, and is booked. A free kick in a very dangerous position. Hazard flicks the set piece towards the far post, where Luiz lurks. Mertesacker eyebrows out for a corner on the right. From which…
52 min: Chelsea look much sharper since the restart. Moses cuts in from the right and has a belt that’s dealt with well by Ospina. Then Costa bustles in from the same flank but is hounded out of it by Monreal, who wins a free kick for good measure. A good old-fashioned scrap, and Costa responds by grabbing the ball and thinking about lancing it into the crowd in a majestic fit of pique. He catches himself in time.
50 min: Hazard, on the right-hand corner of the Arsenal area, flicks the ball inside for Costa, who will surely latch onto it and fire home. But Mertesacker slides in brilliantly to intercept, and even wins the goal kick by deflecting the ball off the Chelsea striker. Mertesacker hasn’t started a game for 392 days!
49 min: Chelsea ping it around in a pretty fashion. They’ve clearly had a rocket from Conte. Kante shoots from 25 yards, a rising swerver that threatens to fox Ospina and find the top right. But the keeper claims well.
48 min: They’re on the front foot now, though. Pedro tears down the left with extreme prejudice. He drops a shoulder to glide inside, and looks to curl one into the bottom right. Mertesacker sticks out a peg to block. Good football all round.
47 min: Chelsea enjoy two minutes of sterile possession. They’re not exactly on the front foot, but it’s a statement of sorts after their strangely meek and obedient first-half performance.
And we’re off again! No changes. Welbeck gets the ball rolling for the second half.
Half-time entertainment: A perambulation down Memory Lane, anyone?
Related: Memory Lane: FA Cup finals – in pictures
Related: Memory Lane: FA Cup finals – in pictures
And that’s that for the first half. Arsenal have been magnificent, and should be more than one goal ahead. But they’re not, and this is perfectly poised. Chelsea aren’t going to take this lying down, are they? It’s going to be fun finding out!
45 min +2: Well over the bar. Sums up Chelsea’s performance so far.
45 min +1: There will be two added minutes tacked onto the end of this first half. And Monreal foolishly shoves Pedro in the back, just to the right of the D. A chance for Alonso to take a whack at goal.
45 min: Hazard and Costa nearly combine to open Arsenal up down the middle. Not quite. The ball pinballs around the box awhile, and for a second it looks as though Costa will pick up the pieces and get a shot in, but Ramsey closes him down well.
43 min: BREAKING NEWS: Ozil tracks back half the length of the pitch to make a tackle.
41 min: Oxlade-Chamberlain slides in on Moses, 30 yards from the Arsenal goal. A clumsy free kick to concede, and a chance for Chelsea to load the box. The champions do exactly that, but what was the point, because Costa is immediately penalised for some needless shoving. Does that exchange qualify as a lull? Only we’re nearly halfway through, and there’s been no lull.
39 min: Hazard embarks on a baroque ramble down the right, draws a couple of men, then flicks forward for Pedro, who takes one step into the Arsenal area and hoicks high over the bar. Snatched and panicky.
38 min: Chelsea do a bit of probing but they can’t find any gaps in this makeshift Arsenal defence. They have at least turned up the energy levels, so low in the early exchanges.
36 min: Bellerin slides a gorgeous ball down the right, and suddenly Sanchez is skittering towards the Chelsea area free! But he dribbles himself wide, and with Cahill over to cover, can’t get a shot away. He really should have done much better. Arsenal will be wondering how they’ve only scored one.
35 min: Hazard drops deep in an attempt to get things moving for Chelsea. His rolled ball down the middle very nearly releases Costa. Wembley is bubbling away; the 90,000 are enjoying this supreme entertainment.
33 min: … and for a second, it looks as though Hazard is going to dance into the Arsenal box down the right. The excellent Monreal snuffs out the attack. Good luck in calling how this final is going to pan out, because it’s a free-flowing, open, wonderful mess, with both teams committed to madcap attack and to hell with the consequences. Magnificent!
32 min: A free kick sent into the Chelsea box from the left by Sanchez is only half cleared. Xhaka, on the right-hand edge of the D, volleys towards the bottom right. Courtois tips round the post, and deals with the resulting corner. He sets Chelsea away on the counter …
30 min: Arsenal skedaddle up the other end, and suddenly Welbeck is set free down the left by Bellerin, finding himself free on the left-hand corner of the six-yard box! He clips the ball inside, in the hope of setting up Ramsay for a tap-in. Instead, it looks like squeezing into the corner, but Cahill once again clears off the line. This is absurd!
29 min: Pedro, deep on the right, sprays a wonderful diagonal pass towards Costa, who gets the run on Holding. He’s suddenly free in the box, albeit under a lot of pressure from Holding behind. And Ospina’s coming out to spread himself. The keeper deflects the eventual shot out for a corner on the left, and takes Costa’s boot upside his head for the trouble. Totally accidental. He’s up and about soon enough, and the corner comes to nothing.
27 min: Welbeck tries to break upfield when a Chelsea attack falls apart. Kante comes across to put a stop to his gallop with a cynical leg. The referee isn’t interested in booking the player of the year, but you’ve seen them given. Welbeck doesn’t look particularly pleased about the non-decision.
25 min: Matic tries to release Costa down he middle, but the pass isn’t up to much. Moses wins a throw deep down the Chelsea right. But the ball’s soon shuttled all the way back to Luiz on the halfway line. Chelsea still can’t quite find their rhythm.
24 min: Pedro comes through the back of Xhaka and is slightly fortunate to escape censure. To be fair, Arsenal don’t make very much of it.
22 min: Matic, with his long legs, makes like Ian Ormondroyd and dances down the middle with some ball-on-string skill. He flicks the ball down the left channel for Costa, but the striker can’t quite get his shot away. Mertesacker gets the credit for a fine tackle. A few signs that Chelsea are slowly coming to life, though.
21 min: Costa and Kante get busy in the Arsenal half, attempting to shift Chelsea up a couple of gears. Kante slips the ball wide to Moses, who’s in a lot of space, but the pass isn’t great. Moses has to put on the breaks, and Monreal is able to snuff out the danger.
19 min: The presence of Welbeck forces another Arsenal corner down the right. Welbeck rises to meet it, six yards out. He shoulders it towards the top left … but it comes off the left-hand post. Ramsey, standing a yard out, is startled as the ball clanks off his chest, back onto the post instead of into the net, and out for a goal kick! Chelsea could very easily be three down already. This wasn’t what anybody expected. Arsenal have been as excellent as Chelsea have been poor.
17 min: Moses slips Pedro into space down the right, but Monreal quickly closes him down to block tackle. The danger is over. Arsenal are faster, stronger and harder right now. Chelsea need to get a wriggle on, and quick. Arsenal, meanwhile, want to make hay while the sun shines.
15 min: Chelsea show their teeth for the first time, Hazard skating down the right and entering the box. He finds Costa in the middle. Costa’s shot from the penalty spot is blocked by Monreal. Arsenal go straight up the other end, Ozil sashaying into the area down the inside-right channel. He takes a heavy touch which sends him a little wide, but still manages to chip the ball over the spreadeagled Courtois. It’s going in, but there’s no pace on the chip, and Cahill can acrobatically backheel a clearance off the line. This is brilliant end-to-end entertainment!
14 min: Ozil drops deep, picks up possession, and slips a lovely ball down the middle of the park. Neither Sanchez nor Ramsey have their heads up, and the pass trundles harmlessly through. But Arsenal are soon coming back again at Chelsea, Sanchez having a crack from 25 yards. It’s not far from the top right, though had it not sailed over the bar, Courtois had it covered.
12 min: Chelsea are struggling to keep hold of possession. On the touchline, Antonio Conte is desperately trying to gee up his team. They’re a little sleepy, slow and second to most balls at the moment.
10 min: That early goal has energised Wembley, and Chelsea aren’t dealing with the vibes very well right now. Courtois, playing football in his own area, suddenly sees Welbeck closing towards him, and slips in panic. He springs up and shifts the ball towards Azpilicueta, just in time, and the danger is cleared. It’s fair to say this is set up perfectly for the neutral, the favourites behind and looking shaky … though who’s neutral these days?
9 min: The first yellow card of the game goes to Ramsey, who is booked for a tug on Pedro as the Chelsea player dribbles through the centre of midfield.
7 min: Costa gets involved in a tangle with Holding down the Chelsea right. He’s earned a free kick, but for a second it looks as though things are going to kick off, Costa flinging a leg out just to see what happens. It all calms down. The free kick is swung into the box, Costa himself rising to head harmlessly over from 12 yards. This is a lively start, and then some!
Courtois claims the corner, but his throw out is reclaimed by Arsenal. The ball’s worked down the inside-left channel. Sanchez flicks it forward for Ramsey, but Luiz heads it back upfield. Sanchez beats Kante to the dropping ball, albeit with arms up. It pings into the area towards Ramsey, who is miles offside. Chelsea stop play, in the hope of the flag going up. Ramsey stops too, because Sanchez chases after the loose ball himself, flicks it across Courtois, and into the bottom right! The flag does indeed go up, but after the ref consults the linesman for a minute, the goal’s given! Early controversy all right.
3 min: Arsenal are getting a good feel of the ball early doors. Chelsea being made to scurry around after it, to no avail. Suddenly Sanchez bursts down the right. He’s eventually surrounded, but a cheeky backheel deflects off Azpilicueta and out for the first corner of the game.
2 min: A bit of nerve-settling possession for Arsenal in the middle of the park. Wembley is bouncing. A rare old noise pinging off the famous stadium’s walls.
A sudden roar snaps Wembley Stadium back into business mode … and we’re off! Diego Costa gets the ball rolling. What an atmosphere. Within 15 seconds, Pedro has latched onto a long ball down the left and laid it off to Alonso, who sweeps it into the Arsenal box. Monreal heads clear purposefully. Then Arsenal go up the other end, the presence of Welbeck down the left forcing Cahill into a hurried clearance. Both teams are on the front foot immediately. The FA Cup final, right here!
Before kick-off, wreaths are laid in memory of the sweet souls lost in Manchester at the start of the week. Warm applause, then a minute’s silence, perfectly observed.
The players take to the pitch! Arsenal in their famous red shirts with white sleeves, Chelsea wearing their storied blue. It’s an aesthetic pleasure. The Duke of Cambridge, president of the FA and Aston Villa supporter, is introduced to the Arsenal XI by their captain for the day Per Mertesacker, then the Chelsea starters by Gary Cahill. A burst of the national anthem. And then the players are introduced to each other. Fair-play handshakes all round.
Kick-off is getting close now. Sol Campbell and Eddie Newton come onto the pitch to wave the cup to all four corners of Wembley, and pop it on a plinth. Then a rousing 90,000-voice rendition of the cup-final hymn Abide With Me. That famous old song was first heard ahead of the cup final in 1927, which wasn’t such a good year for Arsenal as fans of Cardiff City will confirm. The players will be out in a minute!
And now it’s the turn of Arsene Wenger, who will become the most successful manager in FA Cup history should he lift the trophy for the seventh time, beating the record he currently holds jointly with Aston Villa legend George Ramsay. “We have worked hard to get here, and we want to win the competition. Last night we lost Kieran Gibbs who went home sick, so the decision to name the team was not so difficult as we do not have too many defenders left. I believe that 99 percent of the Arsenal fans are fantastic people who stand behind the team, and you want to play for them.” That last, fairly pointed, line was in response to a follow-up question about his interview with the BBC’s Football Focus earlier today, in which he said: “The lack of respect has been for me a disgrace, and I will never accept that. There is a difference between being criticised and being treated in a way in which human beings don’t deserve to be treated.” Whatever the outcome today, the post-match press conferences will be worth a listen, I’ll be bound.
Antonio Conte, yet to win a major final in his managerial career, speaks! “I think in this type of game it is very difficult to tell if there is a favourite. For the motivation, Arsenal could have something more than us. But we have been working very hard on our mentality. I am sure my players want to do this. It is very important to keep our concentration, because when you win the league in this way, the possibility to be a bit relaxed is there. This week we have worked on this aspect. This is my first final in England and I am enjoying it. There is a lot of excitement, but also concentration because we are here to win.”
Arsenal have a few defensive issues, it’s fair to say. It’s the first time their back three of Rob Holding, Per Mertesacker and Nacho Monreal have ever started together. Mertesacker has played just 37 minutes worth of football in the past 13 months; this is his first start in 392 days. David Ospina gets in ahead of Petr Cech, as is the usual way of things in the cups when he’s fit. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain returns from a hamstring problem to hold the fort out on the left.
No great issues for Chelsea, nor are there any major surprises. Nemanja Matic gets the nod over Cesc Fabregas, while Pedro is preferred to Willian. This will be the seventh final John Terry has been involved in, and the third where he starts on the bench. Since you ask: he captained Chelsea in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2012, got on late in 2002, and watched the whole thing in 2000. There’s nothing much left for him to experience, except possibly coming on in the 88th minute and being carried off on 89 in a sedan chair.
Arsenal: Ospina, Holding, Mertesacker, Monreal, Bellerin, Ramsey, Xhaka, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sanchez, Ozil, Welbeck.
Subs: Lucas Perez, Giroud, Walcott, Iwobi, Cech, Coquelin, Elneny.
Chelsea: Courtois, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill, Moses, Kante, Matic, Alonso, Pedro, Costa, Hazard.
Subs: Begovic, Fabregas, Zouma, Ake, Willian, Batshuayi, Terry.
Is there anything better in this world than a sunny Wembley on FA Cup final day? Well, possibly. But you’d be an awful churl to insist upon making the argument. English football’s signature occasion is oft-derided these days … but only by fools who long ago let the love drain from their heart and don’t know what they’re missing. It still has a little life in it yet. What a gorgeous day.