There may have been a distinct lack of romance in the air beneath the closed roof, but Robert Pires kept Arsenal's love affair with the FA Cup very much alive inside Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.
The Premiership may have eluded them, but the FA Cup remains very much
Arsenal's exclusive domain with their ninth triumph.
Indeed, for a side who supposedly do not take the competition too seriously,
back-to-back triumphs in their third consecutive FA Cup final tell their own
story rather more convincingly.
While Thierry Henry missed a catalogue of chances and was even booked for
diving, Pires put the agony of last season's missed finale to the season well
and truly behind him.
A year ago, the enigmatic Frenchman was nursing a serious knee injury as,
despite having won the Footballer of the Year award, he missed out on the glory
climax to the double-winning campaign.
This time he was the match-winner, striking the only goal of a rather scrappy
encounter on 37 minutes to enable Arsenal to salvage one trophy from a season
which had at one stage promised two.
Southampton certainly had heart and soul, but failed to match the impact of
their exuberant and colourful supporters and ultimately lacked the class and
composure of their experienced opponents.
With Ashley Cole clearing James Beattie's last-gasp header off the line, David
Seaman, who also pulled off a sharp reaction save, was left to captain Arsenal
to the trophy in what could be his last high-profile game for the club.
And so there was no repeat of the 1976 upset for the Saints, even though their
surprise inclusion, 21-year-old Chris Baird, in only his second start, did
The move was presumably a response to the 6-1 mauling at Highbury just 10 days
earlier, when Baird went on as a first-half substitute for Fabrice Fernandes to
provide extra defensive stability.
Arsenal nevertheless took up where they left off at Highbury, pulling
Southampton's defence apart with ease, only for Henry to squander a hat-trick of
chances in the opening 10 minutes.
While Baird and fellow full-back Wayne Bridge held their own, the central
defensive duo of Claus Lundekvam and Michael Svensson were mesmerised by Henry's
pace and movement.
With just 20 seconds gone, Lundekvam was left sprawling after his attempted
tug on Henry failed to interrupt the striker's run and he was relieved that
neither a goal, nor a penalty materialised.
Henry's finishing was similarly wayward when Antti Niemi denied him twice
more, the second from an exquisite pass by Dennis Bergkamp, who also saw a
cross-shot cleared off the line by Baird.
Then again, it was not as if Arsenal did not have their own defensive
frailties, especially in the absence of Sol Campbell and Patrick Vieira.
However, Southampton's main threat came from long throw-ins, while Michael
Svensson volleyed over the crossbar and Baird had the audacity to try to curl an
effort past Seaman.
James Beattie did have the ball in the net but was offside and the game rather
petered out amid a general lack of composure.
Arsenal still retained the edge, however, and Southampton wasted a plethora of
chances to clear the ball as the breakthrough finally came.
Henry and Bergkamp were involved in the build-up before Fredrik Ljungberg's
shot was blocked and Pires swooped to bury the loose ball past Niemi.
Only a minute later, the Frenchman, who seemed to be pushed by Baird, clipped
another effort just over, while Bergkamp's shot was then blocked on the line.
Southampton were certainly up against it, especially as Arsenal found their
rhythm after the break, with Gilberto dominating the midfield and Ljungberg and
Henry again both going close.
Beattie may have flicked two headers wide, while Paul Telfer headed a corner
over, but the more they pressed, the more dangerous Arsenal looked on the
Southampton's cause was not helped when Niemi, who had produced another fine
save from Henry, went off after injuring his calf taking a free-kick.
Paul Jones replaced him and was soon joined by Jo Tessem, who squandered an
opening within a minute of his arrival.
Brett Ormerod was denied by an instinctive reaction save from Seaman, while
Jones also managed to deny Henry, who simply cannot score in an FA Cup final.
In four minutes of added time, there was one moment of real drama as Cole
cleared Beattie's header off the line.
Arsenal were home and dry. The hoped-for double had become a single, but the
FA Cup was once again back in the Highbury trophy cabinet.