Arsenal vs. Hull City: 5 Things We Learned as the Gunners Win the FA Cup
Arsenal have won the FA Cup after coming back from the dead to beat Hull City. The Gunners were two goals down after just eight minutes and had to fight their way back into the game. Goals from Santi Cazorla, Laurent Koscielny and match winner Aaron Ramsey proved the difference as Hull wilted.
The Gunners end nine barren years without a trophy.
The Tigers might have been huge underdogs, but they started the game off like Thunder Cats and raced into a two-goal lead after just eight minutes.
The goals came from two of their starting three central defenders. James Chester expertly guided Tom Huddlestone's volley past Lukasz Fabianski and into the bottom corner to open the scoring. The second came from from the boot of Curtis Davies after he reacted first to Fabianski's superb save from Alex Bruce.
Bruce, Hull's third centre-half, almost added the third just two minutes later but was denied by a goal-line clearance by Kieran Gibbs.
Arsenal's fans screamed for a reaction, and they got it in the 16th minute when Bruce gave away a lazy free-kick just outside the box. Santi Cazorla smashed his effort into the top corner with Allan McGregor stretching wildly to keep it out.
From there, the game moved into a lull with Hull dictating the game by denying Arsenal penetrative space. With nowhere to run or pass the ball into, Arsenal's attack crashed and failed upon Hull's disciplined defense.
The Gunners got their breakthrough, however, with 20 minutes to go when Laurent Koscielny bravely stabbed the ball home after the ball had ricocheted around the Hull box.
All of a sudden, Arsenal looked energized and certain to add the third, while Hull looked dead on their feet.
The third eventually came in the second period of extra time from the boot of Ramsey after a sublime piece of skill by Olivier Giroud.
It duly proved to be the winning goal, and Arsenal win the FA Cup for the first time since 2005.
The win gives Arsene Wenger a chance to erase the past nine trophyless years. It also gives the Frenchman real impetus for next season.
Here, Bleacher Report offers five things we learned from Arsenal's 3-2 win over Hull City in the FA Cup final...
Aaron Ramsey Deserved His FA Cup Final Goal and He Can Lead Arsenal to the Title
Aaron Ramsey was Arsenal's best player in the FA Cup final without reaching the superb heights he is capable of. The goal was his 18th of the season.
There are a multitude of reasons as to why Arsenal fell out of the title race so dramatically. One might even say that their demise was so sudden they were virtually ejected.
However, one of the main reasons they are no longer in the race is because of Aaron Ramsey getting injured against West Ham on December 26. The Welshman has only just returned to first-team action after four months.
At the time, the Caerphilly-born 23-year-old was the PFA Player of the Year-elect, such was his outstanding form. Liverpool's Luis Suarez, who captured the award last night at a star-studded gala, was a fine and deserving winner. However, he benefited greatly from not having Ramsey to contend with.
The fact that Steven Gerrard finished second to Suarez raises a huge amount of questions. Yaya Toure was incredible for Manchester City all season, but Ramsey was equally as superb when fit. The fact that neither were mentioned is insulting as it is disgraceful.
When Ramsey got injured in December, he had already played 31 times for club and country and had scored an outstanding 15 goals from midfield, as per Soccerbase. He also contributed a superb nine assists at club level, as per WhoScored.com.
His 131 touches show a player who was available to support his team throughout. It also shows a man who works incredibly hard for the team.
Like Ozil, he will benefit from this season's experience and from the FA Cup final win.
If Arsene Wenger can add a striker and creative wide player to his ranks, his team will go a long way next season. And Ramsey will lead the charge.
Arsene Wenger's Tactics Prevailed, but Only After Hull City Got Tired
Steve Bruce might have sent his team out in a 3-5-1-1 formation on paper, but in reality, Hull's shape looked more like a 5-4-1.
Arsene Wenger's team were, quite rightly, overwhelming favorites given the massive array of talent he had at his disposal.
The Gunners, who have beaten Hull twice this season, seemed overawed by the occasion. Hull's solid three-man central-midfield unit of David Meyler, Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore protected the space in front of Olivier Giroud jealously while initiating almost all of Hull's attacks.
They kept the likes of Aaron Ramsey and the molasses-slow Mikel Arteta out of the game. Meanwhile, Curtis Davies expertly shepherded Olivier Giroud into cul-de-sacs.
Hull dictated the tempo of the game for almost 65 minutes and in many ways their impetus disappeared after Alex Bruce was substituted. The change coincided with Arsenal taking control in central midfield as Hull's central trio tired.
This gave the Gunners the perfect foundation to go on and close the game out. Arsenal's constant movement and changing of lanes is hard to combat for a team operating at 100 percent. For a team who are dog tired and who are using the ropes to stand up, it is mental torture and impossible to defend against.
The third and winning goal from Aaron Ramsey in the second period of extra time was inevitable when it did come.
The win and comeback was deserved, but what did cause worry was the sheer amount of chances Hull created following Arsenal taking the lead.
Arsenal panicked in the final 10 minutes as Wenger's team and tactics threatened to implode in spectacular fashion.
Wenger's tactics weren't spectacular, and Arsenal caused as many problems for themselves as Hull, but few will remember that in the months and years to come.
Curtis Davies Was Superb in Keeping Olivier Giroud Quiet
Curtis Davies, on the Irish international radar of Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane, as per the Daily Mail enjoyed a phenomenal start to his battle against Olivier Giroud.
The former England U-21 international helped Hull into a two-goal lead after just eight minutes when he swept the ball home from close range. At the other end of the pitch, he assisted in keeping Giroud a peripheral figure.
Playing on the left side of Hull's back three, Davies came inside to man-mark Giroud when Hull gained possession. On the rare first-half occasions that Arsenal broke forward, Davies, Hull's captain, dropped off and let Alex Bruce go tight as he swept the space in around the French forward.
The end result after 45 minutes was Giroud offering absolutely nothing to Arsenal's cause other than a single cross. This had the knock on effect of stunting the Gunners' playing style. Without any real recognized width, Arsenal rely heavily upon Giroud to maintain possession in central areas and to bring his midfielders into the game.
Steve Bruce's defensive tactics to negate Giroud's possession had the desired effect of making Arsenal's attack a blunt instrument. To illustrate this fact, all one has to do is realize that Giroud only touched the ball 20 times in an insipid first half, as per WhoScored.com. In his frustration, Arsenal's No. 12 began to leave his mark on both Bruce and Davies with late tackles.
The battle continued into the second period and into extra time.
As Curtis tired, Giroud's influence grew.
The French centre-forward's neat back-heel to set up Aaron Ramsey for the winning goal can be traced directly to Hull's mental tiredness.
The loss hit Davies hard and his words to ITV, as per BBC, will echo long after the final. They show brutal honesty.
When they got tired they still had the quality. We gave everything but we are left feeling flat. It was a hard game to throw away from 2-0 up, but that's what we did.
I'd sooner have no plaudits and win, than have the plaudits and not be getting a medal.
Davies was superb and was easily Hull's best player, but like he says: It means little without a medal.
Arsene Wenger Still Has a Big Part to Play at Arsenal
In the buildup to the FA Cup final, CNN's Tancredi Palmeri tweeted the following lines:
Wenger received huge offer from Monaco. Wenger rejected because told them:
"If I win FA Cup, I stay at Arsenal. If I lose, I will retire"
If the FA Cup was the game to end Wenger's career at Arsenal, he certainly did not show it in his team selection.
The moralistic Frenchman showed his true core values to the world when he selected Lukasz Fabianski ahead of Wojciech Szczesny. Fabianski, out of contract and expected to leave the club in the coming weeks, was given the nod over his fellow shot-stopper and Premier League incumbent, Szczesny.
It was a brave move for Wenger, considering his future was allegedly on the line.
Wenger's future did not look good after Hull went two-up after just eight minutes.
By the time the half-time whistle came, Arsenal's fans were in panic mode.
By the time the full-time whistle came after extra time, Arsenal's fans were delirious.
Wenger confirmed to ITV, as per BBC Sport, that he will remain with the club next season, but he also indicated that he wanted to wait to see how the FA Cup final went.
Le Prof will lead his team into battle next season. Arsenal's fans expect a title challenge.
The trick for Wenger is to convince his team of the same.
Despite FA Cup Win, Arsenal's Mentality Still Has Questions Against It
Arsenal faced huge questions about the big game mentality as they headed into the FA Cup final against Hull City.
The Gunners and the Tigers were separated by 42 points and 12 places in the final Premier League table. On paper, the FA Cup final was a complete and utter mismatch, especially when you consider that Arsenal had beaten Hull in their last six attempts, scoring 15 goals into the bargain.
However, football is not a game that is played on paper. Despite the mismatch in terms of international players and experience, mental strength and anguish can be a great leveller. Arsenal have struggled in big games in recent years with many pundits and analysts criticizing the club for this weakness.
The former midfielder offered his view of things in the Arsenal dressing room and on the pitch. Scholes, taking a leaf from Roy Keane's book of honest analysis, lambasted Arsenal when working as a pundit for Sky Sports:
They capitulated at Chelsea and it seems to be a similar theme when they play the top teams [in big games].
It happened in Liverpool and they conceded six against the City. For one reason or another, players just seem to go missing. The Artetas, Cazorlas, Rosickys, Ozils, it seems like they go on the pitch with no discipline.
They play a few nice little one-twos, a bit of tippy-tappy football and don't bother running back. There's no leader with them.
It's the Arsenal fans you feel sorry for, because they seem to get the same thing every year, maybe a little hint of the title for a few weeks and then go to Chelsea, City or Liverpool and do nothing.
To credit Arsenal, they did claw their way back from 2-0 down. However, the blitz that Arsenal fans and the players themselves expected never materialized.
The Gunners showed strength to come back into the game and deservedly won the FA Cup final.
Most Arsenal fans will hope that their trophy duck is broken and that this will enable the team to rise to bigger and better things.
The questions about their mentality remain for the moment because of the manner of the victory against a much poorer team.
Those questions, however, will evaporate into the footballing ether if Arsenal launch a real title bid next season.