I understand why Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was named man-of-the-match at Wembley on Saturday but watching the game live in the stadium, my choice would have been Dani Ceballos.
There will be concern about Aubameyang dedicating his future to Arsenal – for obvious reasons – but it is also crucial for the Mikel Arteta project that Ceballos stays beyond this season, whether it is another loan from Real Madrid or a permanent transfer.
Watching Ceballos in the flesh really crystallised how important he is. His courage on the ball in tight situations allows Arsenal to play out from the back as Arteta wants. It is no longer Granit Xhaka on his own.
What I like about the Spaniard is he is progressive with his passing. He always looks forward first. He is the one who plays those penetrative passes short and long. Aubameyang and his team-mates further forward are the beneficiaries.
And though he is not the athletic player, the defensive aspect of his game is sound. He put himself in the firing line in terms of tackling Chelsea when I regarded him more of a No 10, a luxury player if you like, when he arrived.
Arsenal have a big summer because this FA Cup-winning XI are only two or three players short of a really top team, particularly with the talented youngsters at the club like Eddie Nketiah and Bukayo Saka. But lose Aubameyang and Ceballos and they are in big trouble because it will be very difficult without the attraction of Champions League football to attract players of similar quality without spending an awful lot of money.
That is why it is worth going the extra mile with Aubameyang’s contract if it’s an issue. And if Real insist on Arsenal having to buy Ceballos instead of another loan, the reported fee of £35million seems very reasonable to me. Take him. The money Arsenal will pay to keep both of them will save them money in the long run.
Overall, I thought the final was a really good game. Arsenal deserve credit for the way they fought back – indicative of the togetherness Arteta has brought.
Chelsea started brightly with Mason Mount and Christian Pulisic coming off the channels but Arsenal were the better team after the opening 20 minutes.
Yes, Frank Lampard will rightly feel unfortunate with injuries to Pulisic and Cesar Azpilicueta, and the red card to Mateo Kovacic was plain wrong. But Arsenal deserved to win. The finish by Aubameyang for the winner, goodness me, absolutely brilliant. As for Chelsea, they can still look back on the season with pride. Finishing in the top four was a great achievement. They have been good going forward but had problems defensively all season. It showed again on Saturday.
I was privileged to be at Wembley to co-commentate for the BBC. It is eerie at the start to see a stadium of that size empty. But the game was good enough to quickly get over that. We work with headphones and you can adjust the outside volume to the level that makes you feel comfortable. I could have had the fake crowd noise piped in to create atmosphere but I didn’t because I wanted to be able to hear what the managers were shouting.
I could hear a bit. Arteta was yelling ‘Ainsley, Ainsley’, encouraging Maitland-Niles to spin in down the sides and behind the Chelsea defence, which he did to great effect. Lampard was vocal too, shouting for the high press. Arteta is a winner and what he has done at Arsenal in a short space of time is remarkable.
He still needs to add at least one centre-half and possibly another midfield player to take this team to the next level but the first priority has to be keeping what he has, as Jurgen Klopp did at Liverpool last summer.
Lampard will still have to wait for his first trophy but Chelsea cannot be disheartened, particularly with the transfer business they have already done with Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech.
Both managers deserve plaudits and the biggest compliment I can give them is that the game itself on Saturday was a proper cup final. Apart from a brief lull in the second half, it was exciting and high tempo all the way. And the best team on the day lifted the trophy.