The FA Cup for me this season started in just my fourth game in charge, when we played Leeds United at Emirates Stadium – and after a first half in which we were outplayed, it was a tough start.
Thankfully, from the second half in that match we’ve been consistent in producing good performances and I’ve been really proud of the players throughout our run to the Final.
At Bournemouth, we played a young side who executed a plan perfectly. Bukayo Saka and Eddie Nketiah scored for us and these young players have been fantastic since I came to the club.
We saw it again at Portsmouth, when a very young side went there, came through a tough period and then took the game away from them. It’s one of those typical English grounds that in a cup tie is tough, really tough – I played in lots of matches like that – but the maturity of a young team got us through.
By the time we played the quarter final, we were in the new post-lockdown situation and playing at Bramall Lane, which I have to admit was strange as it is another one of those grounds where you expect a lot of noise. But I thought we got a deserved win, with a fantastic late goal from Dani Ceballos after it looked like we had been denied the win.
So this great club had another semi-final at Wembley – and I couldn’t have been happier with the performance against Manchester City. We have a process and we have to trust that, we did and it earned us this win. The performance was superb, including magnificent goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and the level of fight and decision-making couldn’t be faulted against one of the best teams in Europe.
I remember feeling so proud to captain the club to the win in 2014, which was one of the most amazing games I have ever been involved in. Lifting the trophy was one of the great moments of my playing career and I want my current Arsenal players to experience this feeling too. This club deserves the best to reflect our rich history, and we must be fighting for every bit of silverware available.
It’s also important that we remember why today’s game has been renamed the Heads Up FA Cup Final. We are using the powerful platform of football to encourage people to start a conversation around mental health.
Myself, Per Mertesacker, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Hector Bellerin joined HRH The Duke of Cambridge for a discussion on the importance of mental health awareness to announce this campaign. Mental health is just as important as our physical health. This is something where all of us can make a positive impact, so please remember to be kind to one another and take care of your mind.
On behalf of the players and staff, we thank all the fans for their continued support. This has been a tough season for the fans not being able to come to matches. We cannot wait for everyone to be back at matches when it’s safe to do so. We really appreciate the patience and messages of support that you have given us this season and we hope to make you all proud todayREAD THE HEADS UP FA CUP FINAL PROGRAMME