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5 BIG ISSUES from Arsenal's FA Cup win: Alexis shows Wenger he must buy; Ozil real deal; Sherwood selection gaff


Alexis Sanchez decided the Cup final with a piece of magic. Yes, Arsenal were 1-0 ahead and had dominated up to the Chilean's moment. But Villa were still in with a chance and you fancy Tim Sherwood had Gabby Agbonlahor primed to enter the fray 15 minutes after the break.

But the contest never made it that far. Five minutes after halftime, Alexis found himself with a clear sight on Shay Given's goal and an extra second on the ball. From the moment the ball left his boot, the Cup was going back to Arsenal.

That effort on 50 minutes is all those on the Arsenal board need to persuade Arsene Wenger to spend big again this summer. Alexis is a world class matchwinner. It's what he brings to Arsenal. No other player on the Wembley pitch was capable of such a strike. In that moment he decided the destiny of a trophy - and justified the £35 million Arsenal paid Barcelona for him.


It was supposed to be Tim Sherwood who would pull a rabbit out of the tactical hat. He'd be the one to surprise 'set-in-his-ways' Arsene Wenger. But it was the Gunners manager who stunned us all by going with Theo Walcott ahead of Olivier Giroud at striker. Walcott didn't let Wenger down with the opening goal. But the contribution was more than just the England man getting on the scoresheet. Arsenal's attacking play added another string to its bow.

The possession game was still dominant, but the long ball over the top also came into play. Villa always broke with the concern of being caught out themselves should they lose possession with numbers forward. Particularly in the first-half, Per Mertesacker had Villa's back four backpedaling several times with long, high balls to the darting Walcott and Alexis. It was unexpected. Un-Wenger-like. And it worked.


Aston Villa were outclassed. But the contest was not as one-sided as many are claiming today. What will be frustrating for Tim Sherwood and his players is they didn't leave everything on the pitch yesterday. In Sherwood's case, he must be second-guessing the decision to leave Gabby Agbonlahor out of his starting XI. Testing Wojciech Szczesny with high crosses did work. The Pole looked nervy whenever confronted by Christian Benteke. But when the game was there to be won, Villa lacked the weapons to hurt Arsenal. Several times during that first-half Villa broke with Arsenal's back four well exposed, but without the blinding pace of Agbonlahor, the Gunners midfield were always able to recover. They just didn't ask enough questions of Mertesacker and Koscielny. It was a selection decision that backfired on Sherwood.


With a free summer and a full preseason, just how good will Mesut Ozil be next term? There were plenty of great performances from Arsenal on Saturday - and Ozil was among them. Along with all the invention he brings to Arsenal's game, yesterday he didn't shirk the physical stuff. Ozil refused to be bullied off the ball. He won 50-50 tackles and chased down lost causes.

We're all anticipating an improved Alexis next season. But what about Ozil? One special moment in the first-half encapsulated what he could offer next season. With the ball there to be won on the halfway line, Ozil stepped into a block tackle with Fabian Delph - won possession - and nutmegged the next Villa tackler. He then played Alexis in behind Villa fullback Alan Hutton. Add an improved defensive side to Ozil's overall game and Wenger will have some player on his hands.


Laurent Koscielny woke up this morning (or is that this afternoon?) with an FA Cup winner's medal and his name in the headlines being linked with Real Madrid. If you need to pick out one player to explain Arsenal's resurgence in the second-half of the season, it has to be the Frenchman.

The centre-half missed 14 games before Christmas as Arsenal struggled to stay in touching distance with the top four. It's no coincidence Koscielny's return also saw Arsenal's campaign perform a 180.

Yesterday, alongside Mertesacker, Koscielny again turned in an assured performance.

Rafa Benitez wants Real to tempt him to Madrid. Pep Guardiola is also keen to add him to Bayern Munich's squad. He won't get the headlines, but at 29, Koscielny is at the top of his game and recognised by those who really matter. If Arsenal are to mount a serious title challenge next season, keeping hold of Koscielny will be as crucial as any Vidal or Jackson Martinez signing.

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Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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