Season Review: FA Cup

Over the next week we’ll be reviewing Arsenal's 2014/15 campaign - and we finish by looking at how the Gunners retained the FA Cup to win the competition for a record 12th time.

Arsenal began their FA Cup defence with a victory over last season’s finalists Hull City, and the Gunners ensured there would be no drama this time around.

Per Mertesacker put the champions ahead, towering over Curtis Davies to score his first goal since the one that rescued last season’s semi-final against Wigan Athletic. Alexis Sanchez then span on the edge of the box to curl a shot beyond Steve Harper’s reach and seal the tie for Arsenal on his FA Cup debut.

"If you love football, you love Tomas Rosicky"

Arsene Wenger

Next came Brighton & Hove Albion and one player’s match-winning performance at Amex Stadium prompted one of Arsène Wenger’s most memorable quotes of the season: “If you love football, you love Tomas Rosicky.”

Theo Walcott gave Arsenal the lead after just 90 seconds and then Rosicky stole the show. The forward found Mesut Ozil with an inch-perfect reverse pass to double the Gunners’ advantage before winning possession, playing a no-look pass to Olivier Giroud and expertly volleying the France striker’s return ball into the bottom corner to cancel out Chris O’Grady and Sam Baldock’s strikes.

Back to the Emirates for the fifth round and Arsenal faced a Middlesbrough side who had their sights set on another giant-killing, having already beaten Manchester City. However the Gunners had hit form themselves, winning six of their last seven games, and it only took 27 minutes for their class to show.

Olivier Giroud

Olivier Giroud

Wojciech Szczesny took a short goal kick to Gabriel and 16 passes later, after all 11 Gunners had touched the ball, Olivier Giroud finished the ultimate Arsenal team goal at the near post. The France striker then demonstrated his own individual brilliance to volley Alexis' corner past Tomas Mejias and set up a quarter-final tie against Manchester United at Old Trafford.

With 11 FA Cup wins each, one team would take a step closer to being crowned the competition’s most successful side. Arsenal had not won at Old Trafford since 2006 but got off to a perfect start when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain danced through United’s defence to feed Nacho Monreal, who finished past David de Gea at his near post.

Wayne Rooney equalised for the hosts but Danny Welbeck soon left his mark on his homecoming. The England forward pounced on Antonio Valencia’s loose back pass, rounded De Gea and slotted into the empty net to seal Arsenal’s return to Wembley and spark jubilant celebrations in front of the 9,000 travelling fans.

Will this man be the hero again?

Danny Welbeck

Now at Wembley, Wenger had warned his side not to underestimate their Championship opponents ahead of the semi-final and, like Wigan Athletic last season, Reading took Arsenal to extra-time.

Mesut Ozil found Alexis with a clever clipped pass and the Chile forward slotted underneath Adam Federici to give the Gunners the lead, but Garath McCleary equalised. Gabriel and Aaron Ramsey struck the frame of the goal but Arsenal’s fortunes were soon reversed when Alexis’ low strike was fumbled into the net by Federici to secure Arsenal’s place in a record 19th FA Cup final, against Aston Villa.

The Gunners had already beaten Villa 3-0 and 5-0 but with Tim Sherwood now at the helm and a trophy at stake, Wenger’s side were right to expect the unexpected.

Arsenal had been punished by Hull for their slow start in last season’s showpiece, but Walcott calmed everyone’s nerves with a goal before the break this time around. Alexis and Mertesacker added to the Gunners’ lead after half-time before Giroud struck in the 90th minute to cap off a commanding performance as Arsenal won a record 12th FA Cup.

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