LONDON — Arsene Wenger’s turbulent year ended with a third FA Cup success in four seasons after Arsenal beat Chelsea 2-1 to deny the English Premier League champion a double on Saturday.
Aaron Ramsey was the match-winner, just like in the 2014 final, restoring Arsenal’s lead in the 79th minute shortly after Diego Costa leveled for 10-man Chelsea at Wembley Stadium.
Just as the season reached its climax, Arsenal turned in the type of tenacious display lacking so often, and against a side so commanding in the Premier League in Antonio Conte’s first season in charge. And it might just be enough to stem the tide of protests against Wenger, as the record 13-time FA Cup winners are yet to announce a new contract for the 67-year-old Frenchman for next season.
“There’s a board meeting on Tuesday,” Wenger said on the pitch before collecting the trophy. “Wednesday or Thursday will be clearer.”
Wenger became the competition’s most successful manager with a seventh title in his 21-year reign, triumphs that have papered over some of the cracks as Arsenal has repeatedly come up short in the Premier League and Champions League.
“I’m happy for the manager,” Ramsey said. “Hopefully he will be here next season.”
For once, this was a day when so much went right for Wenger, even with a patched-up injury-depleted defense featuring captain Per Mertesacker making his first start in more than a year.
“We had outstanding performances,” Wenger said. “We know this team has suffered.”
The Gunners were eliminated from the Champions League for the seventh successive season in the last 16. And they won’t even be back among Europe’s elite in September after finishing fifth in the Premier League; the lowest finish since Wenger took charge in 1996.
But the season has ended with a run of six victories in May after Wenger adopted the three-man defense that has served Conte so well, until now.
“They showed strength and unity,” Wenger said, “and we played spectacular football again.”
When Alexis Sanchez put the ball in the net after four minutes, it was initially disallowed when Ramsey was adjudged to be interfering with play while offside. But the decision by Anthony Taylor’s assistant was overturned by the referee.
Arsenal even had the luxury of a man advantage from the 68th when Victor Moses received a second yellow card for diving.
Although Diego Costa equalized in the 76th, bringing down Willian’s lofted ball on his chest and striking past David Ospina, Arsenal was back in front inside three minutes.
“When they equalized it looked like things were against us, but we dug deep,” Arsenal striker Danny Welbeck said. “You always worry in football because you don’t know what will happen next.”
On an afternoon when so much bucked the story of the season, double player of the year N’Golo Kante failed to track Ramsey, who was left unmarked to meet Olivier Giroud’s dinked pass back.
“I love to make late runs into the box,” Ramsey said. “He put it on the plate for me to score the winner ... I just love this competition.”