Alexis Sanchez scored a stunning goal to inspire Arsenal to a record 12th FA Cup after overwhelming Aston Villa in a one-sided final at Wembley.

Theo Walcott gave the Gunners the lead after 40 minutes when he lashed home before Sanchez took centre stage with a 30-yard thunderbolt after the break.

Per Mertesacker's fortunate header and Olivier Giroud's stoppage time flick clinched victory to give Arsene Wenger a record equalling sixth FA Cup winner's medal as the north London club became the eighth different side to retain the trophy.

Villa meanwhile were ineffective and lacklustre for long periods with Christian Benteke and Jack Grealish - stars of their semi-final win over Liverpool - failing to inspire the club to their first major trophy since 1996.

Victory for Arsenal means Southampton will play in the Europa League next season, with Liverpool entering the competition at the group stage.

Following a harrowing and sobering week for the governance of the global game, the planet's oldest cup competition took centre stage in an attempt to reignite faith in a sport whose reputation had taken a battering in the last week.

Theo Walcott
Walcott thrashed the Gunners into a first half lead. Getty Images

With both teams chasing significant pieces of history, Arsene Wenger and Tim Sherwood each faced selection dilemmas for the 134th FA Cup final.

After netting a hat-trick in the final day thrashing of West Bromwich Albion, Walcott led the Arsenal attack ahead of the goal-shy Olivier Giroud.

In goal, having started four of the north Londoners' five matches on the way to the final, Wojciech Szczesny was retained ahead of number one David Ospina.

Villa's own cup specialist stopper, Shay Given, began ahead of Brad Guzan for the Midlands club but there was no place for new permanent signing Scott Sinclair, who started on the bench as Charles N'Zogbia was entrusted with supporting Benteke.

In the pressure-cooker environment of major cup final, Villa's first for 15 years it was immediately clear who was the more comfortable in their surroundings as Arsenal dictated the early exchanges.

Santi Cazorla and Sanchez were being afforded too much room by Villa's stand-offish approach and they manufactured three presentable opportunities in the opening quarter.

Alexis Sanchez
Sanchez\'s strike after 50 minutes illuminated a dominant Arsenal performance. Getty Images

Laurent Koscielny's header was pushed out by Given but the holders appeared destined to take the lead when Ramsey first toe-poked into the side-netting and then lashed over after Ron Vlaar's clearance struck the Welshman.

The incisive Villa which had ousted Liverpool from the competition in April's semi-final was a distant memory as coupled with the wastefulness of Tom Cleverley and Grealish, the game became awash with Arsenal pressure.

Only Keiran Richardson's goal-line block kept Walcott from giving Arsenal the lead from six yards as with Mesut Ozil's authority swelling, Villa clung desperately onto parity in the game.

However, Villa were unable to hold out until the break as Arsenal broke the deadlock five minute before the break as Sanchez knocked down Nacho Monreal's cross and Walcott, first to the loose ball, unleashed a half-volley which thundered past Given.

Per Mertesacker
Mertesacker celebrates putting holders Arsenal home and dry. Getty

It was a blow to Villa's confidence from which they would never recover as five minutes after the break Sanchez dipping strike from range flew past Given's desperate dive to give the Gunners daylight.

As Benteke continued to cut a forlorn figure in attack, Arsenal threatened to put the garnish on their complete performance but Given twice denied Cazorla and Walcott from point blank range.

Powerless to prevent Arsenal taking a two-goal lead, Villa were left to rue their own failings as their hopes of winning a first major trophy for 19 years were ended as Mertesacker's miss-timed but unopposed header dribbled past Given.

Villa roused themselves late on and though Grealish should have been awarded a penalty after being hauled down by Hector Bellerin, nothing could overshadow a polished Arsenal display which was capped by Giroud's near-post fourth which sees them usurp Manchester United by becoming the most successful club in the FA Cup's illustrious history.