Mikel Arteta set about making a culture change when he took over as Arsenal manager.
To bring in a stronger mentality, a togetherness, a winning mentality, to make them harder to beat, more resilient and better defensively after years of being a soft touch.
This FA Cup success has shown that, in the space of eight months, Arteta is already making inroads but there is one thing that he has not been able to change.
That is the love affair with the FA Cup because this was the 14th time Arsenal have won the trophy. They were already the most successful team in the competition’s history and have now gone one better.
Lifting the trophy underlined the progress Arteta has made but bigger proof was in the way that, after going 1-0 down, they did not crumble but showed a new determination and resolve to come back.
The FA Cup was vital in terms of being a passport into Europe and providing new funds and fresh hope of strengthening and rebuilding this squad.
But the way they achieved it, from outsmarting Manchester City in the semi final to having too much for Chelsea in the final, shows that Arsenal are moving in the right direction under Arteta.
The respect the players have for Arteta was there for all to see in the togetherness of the post match celebrations and the way they listened to his instructions in the first drinks break when the momentum changed from Chelsea being to Arsenal taking charge.
“You mentioned the spirit and I am so proud of how we have been able to get through it,” said Arteta. “When you win things, it creates a great spirit for the staff and players at the club.
“Hopefully they can see what we are trying to do and they can be involved even more. There is still a lot of work to do. But I am very proud of what the players have done and how far they have come.
“It is a great group of lads to manage. We know our strengths and weaknesses but we know the effort and commitment we have put in every training session and in every game. As a manager, this is what you want.”
There were many big performances. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s coolness from the penalty spot and supremely composed second goal. David Luiz completely dominated Olivier Giroud who has been such a driving force in the closing weeks of the season.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles was an unsung hero, Hector Bellerin’s charge forward for the winning goal, Kieran Tierney and Emiliano Martinez were excellent again and yet, quietly and so assured, it was another player who perhaps best embodies Arteta’s turnaround.
Granit Xhaka was on his way out when Arteta arrived, unpopular after his bitter fall out with the fans and as ostracised as Mesut Ozil and Matteo Guendouzi find themselves now. But Xhaka is proof that if you buy into Arteta’s philosophy then anything is possible.
Xhaka is now the player that Arsenal thought they were buying in the first place. A commanding midfielder who is clearly being coached and drilled so that he is disciplined and his midfield axis with Dani Ceballos has become a key component thanks to the manager.
Arteta said: “Granit is a really good example but the players have to be willing and they have to have the personality and the work rate he has.
“You need to have faith and courage to face the problem and slowly start to knock down the wall and start to enjoy the profession in the way he deserves.
“We were just there to support him a little bit and to give him a little bit of advice and we were right behind him. The rest was up to him and he deserved credit for that.”
You actually had to feel sorry for Chelsea in the end. Anything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Christian Pulisic was outstanding early on, scored the opener and Arsenal found him impossible to pick up but then he went off injured just after half time.
Cesar Azpilicueta’s clumsy challenge for Aubameyang to concede a silly penalty, then he got injured. Mateo Kovacic being sent off for two bookings (the second of which was ridiculously harsh) and Pedro suffering a nasty shoulder injury late on.
The luck was on Arsenal’s side but they have fought so hard over the past few months to earn it.
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