Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta outmanoeuvred his mentor Pep Guardiola as the Gunners reached the FA Cup final with victory at Wembley. Arteta, who left his job as Manchester City assistant manager to succeed Unai Emery at Arsenal in December, now has a chance to mark his first season in charge with major silverware when they face Chelsea or Manchester United in the final on 1 August. The match-winner was Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the world-class striker Arsenal are desperate to secure on a new long-term contract, as he ruthlessly exposed City’s defensive deficiencies.
Aubameyang had already shot straight at Ederson with one clear chance but there was no escape for City after 19 minutes when he showed great technique to steer home Nicolas Pepe’s cross with the outside of his foot at the far post. City dominated possession after the break but squandered their opportunities and Aubameyang made them pay once more in the 71st minute when he raced away on the angle to slide a composed finish under the keeper. This was a personal triumph for Arteta and completes a superb week after the victory over Premier League champions Liverpool at Emirates Stadium on Wednesday. And there was so much to admire about Arsenal’s willingness to adopt a courageous gameplan, happy to patiently keep possession – often in their own area – with one such passage of play leading to Aubameyang’s opener.
As against Liverpool, Arsenal were well-organised and resilient at the back, willing to throw bodies on the line to repel the wave of City attacks in the second half as the holders tried to hold on to the FA Cup. David Luiz had the sort of nightmare many believed would end his Arsenal career when they played City in their first post-lockdown game at Etihad Stadium, making a mistake leading to a goal then being sent off after conceding a penalty. This was the other side of the maverick Brazilian defender, a rock at the heart of Arsenal’s defence and a central figure in this victory. The spearhead, however, was the 31-year-old Gabon striker Aubameyang, who was a huge threat throughout and illustrated exactly why he is among the game’s elite group of strikers.
An ever-present menace, his two finishes were of the highest quality and demonstrated his big-match temperament.This is why Arsenal are so keen to get his signature on a lucrative new deal – and why they will have a chance of winning the FA Cup no matter who they face in the final.