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IAN LADYMAN: Arsenal tears after win over Chelsea prove the FA Cup still matters

Emiliano Martinez was definitely crying and Kieran Tierney seemed to be crying too. Even little Lucas Torreira may have been crying as he hugged his manager at the end — and he hadn’t even played.

So there were lots of Arsenal tears at the end of FA Cup final victory No 14 for the club. And it is important to realise just why they were crying and what it was for.

It was not because Arsenal had qualified for the Europa League next season. It was not because that victory will bring the club £30million which could be spent on a new player or two. And it was not because European football may make Arsenal more attractive to their best player Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as he prevaricates over a new contract.

No, it was not because of any of that. Arsenal players were in tears because they had won the Cup, the famous one.

Martinez was doubtless crying because the struggles and frustrations of 10 years as an understudy thousands of miles away from his native Argentina suddenly felt worth it and vindicated.

Tierney also had an emotional journey to reflect on. His story only involved a move south from his native Scotland but it had encompassed homesickness, doubt, loneliness and injury. For the young defender, victory in the FA Cup at the end of his first season was enough to turn the taps on.

At the end of a hard, stressful and scary season for everybody involved in football, this was all very heartening.

For some of the day, this felt like an FA Cup that was devalued. Abide With Me — usually rising from the stomachs of 90,000 supporters — was lip-synched by Emeli Sande standing on the stadium’s roof. Why? Nobody knows. But it felt a little like Wembley looked — empty and a little hollow.

How encouraging, then, that the feeling didn’t last. The game was good enough and real enough to underline just how important the FA Cup still is. There are always exceptions but, to most players, trophies and medals are still what matters. 

These ones had to be collected from a plastic tray and that felt like a precautionary step too far. But that does nothing to change how they feel once in the hands. An FA Cup winner’s medal remains important — and here was the evidence.

This was, then, a good day for the wonderful old competition, in the end. Sometimes, it still feels like a miracle that the Premier League season got finished — and they could feasibly have sacrificed the Cup to ensure that happened. 

But they didn’t. It still brought the curtain down on the season for the top clubs and this was a fittingly decent game.

Chelsea were quick out of the blocks and their American forward Christian Pulisic briefly dazzled. His was a super goal in creation and execution. The 21-year-old’s composure to drag the ball past his man and lift it into the goal was admirable and so too was Olivier Giroud’s round the corner flick to offer him his chance.

Only five minutes in, it was hard not to fear for Arsenal. But that soft centre allowed to develop under Arsene Wenger is finally hardening and this was a brave and intelligently constructed recovery. 

Their manager Mikel Arteta had been courageous enough to field his three forwards as he had done in the semi-final win over Manchester City and he was rewarded.

Chelsea’s Frank Lampard may wish to reflect on a team selection that — lacking proper pace in wide positions — left them vulnerable to their opponents’ rapid counters.

Referee Anthony Taylor did not have his best game and the VAR system presented us with yet another puzzle. 

Why can it not be used to review yellow card decisions? Had it been, Mateo Kovacic would not have been sent off — it wasn’t even a foul on Granit Xhaka — and Chelsea would have had a greater chance of recovering the game.

Nevertheless, this felt like the right result. Lampard will be concerned at his team’s failure to chase the game effectively.

Chelsea didn’t manage a shot as they tried to get back on terms and it was noticeable how limited their strike power was when compared to some of the centre forwards playing at other top teams.

This is something Chelsea will hope to have addressed with the purchase of Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech. The expected acquisition of the German Kai Havertz will help, too.

Here, they looked blunt and when Arsenal moved the ball well at the other end, they looked vulnerable too.

Chelsea’s players appeared devastated at the end. To lose a final when you have not given your best — something Lampard was honest enough to point out — is very hard to take.

But for those in red and white, this was another game to help them point to a better future and late in the evening Aubameyang and David Luiz reappeared on the pitch to sit down, talk and reflect on what they had just achieved.

Wembley was almost empty by then but then it had been all along. This was a strange final at the end of a strange season. But we should be glad that it took place. 

Ultimately, it served to remind us that winning trophies and happy tears are all still available. There is a lot to be said for that.

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