Does a bright end to a dark season beckon for Arsenal?
Match Preview: Arsenal vs. Chelsea – FA Cup Final – 27.05.2017
Oh yes, the FA Cup final, the one we’ve been waiting for. This season has been a series of disappointments culminating in Arsenal finishing outside of the top four for the first time in twenty years. However, ending with a trophy, re-securing our status as the undisputed Kings of the FA Cup, would go some way to removing the bitter taste from many an Arsenal mouth.
The Champions await us this evening so the task could not be much harder but despite the predictions of many a football tipster a Chelsea double is not a foregone conclusion. For all their pomp in winning the title it must be said that Chelsea were made to look average by an in-form Arsenal early in the season and have taken their foot of the gas in defence since being confirmed as Champions. This is not to suggest Conte’s side will not be up for this match but there is a chink in the armour.
Of course, Chelsea returned the drubbing we gave them with a tight victory at Stamford Bridge but it must be noted that Chelsea had long changed their performance – a title-winning response to their humbling by Arsenal – and had gone on a winning spree whilst the Gunners were in a deep funk. The score did not quite reflect the tightness of the match which was ultimately decided by a flash of brilliance from Hazard. Perhaps another battle of even formations will see the Gunners triumphant again.
However, standing in Arsenal’s way is not just the opposition but their own selection headache. Defensively, Arsenal are vulnerable. Gabriel is injured and Koscielny suspended. The question for Wenger is will he go for three specialist centre-backs, one of whom has barely played for the entire season, or enlist Monreal as an auxiliary centre-back and play Gibbs at wing-back.
Call it blind optimism or cognitive dissonance in the face of overwhelming evidence but I think Arsenal have a chance here. At the very least the occasion should light a fire under the players’ bottoms. It could well be Arsène Wenger’s last ever match for the club he has served so loyally and if that doesn’t inspire the players to deliver for him then nothing will.
Arsenal (from): Cech, Martinez, Macey, Bellerin, Holding, Mertesacker, Mustafi, Monreal, Gibbs, Maitland-Niles, Coquelin, Xhaka, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Özil, Walcott, Reine-Adelaide, Iwobi, Alexis, Welbeck, Giroud.
“We have an opportunity to grab the trophy. We have to focus on that. We have to turn up on the day with our best performance.” – Arsène Wenger
Last 3 Meetings
- Chelsea 3-1 Arsenal (04.02.2017)
- Arsenal 3-0 Chelsea (24.09.2016)
- Arsenal 0-1 Chelsea (24.01.2016)
Chelsea have not suffered any real malaise since being confirmed champions but they have become a little careless in their defensive duties. They’ve conceded more than one goal just thirteen times all season but thrice in the last month. Whether this suggests that they’ve lost their competitive fire is an open question, and one Arsenal should look to ask from the first whistle.
- Seven of the last eight FA Cup ties between these sides have been won by Arsenal.
- Chelsea came out on top in the last meeting – a 2-1 semi-final win in 2009 – but that is their only FA Cup victory against the Gunners in the last 70 years.
- Overall, the sides have been paired together 13 times in this competition, with Arsenal winning eight ties and Chelsea victorious five times.
- In league and cup, Chelsea have won eight of the last 13 encounters (D3, L2).
- This is only the second FA Cup final in 35 years to feature two London clubs – the other was in 2002 when Arsenal beat Chelsea to claim the Double.
- Arsenal are playing in a record 20th FA Cup final. They can become the first side to win the competition 13 times; they are currently level with Manchester United on 12 wins.
- Arsene Wenger can become the most successful manager in the FA Cup. He is currently tied with George Ramsay, who won the competition six times with Aston Villa.
- Victory would be Wenger’s 10th major Arsenal honour – he has won six FA Cups and three league titles.
- The Gunners have won the trophy in their last five FA Cup final appearances, and in seven of their last eight. Their only defeat in that time came against Liverpool at the Millennium Stadium in 2001.
- Arsenal have only lost one of their last 22 matches in the FA Cup (W19, D2 – with one of those draws followed by a penalty shoot-out win versus Wigan).
- The Gunners are unbeaten in their last seven matches at Wembley Stadium, with six wins and a penalty shoot-out victory against Wigan. Their last defeat there was the 2-1 loss versus Birmingham City in the 2011 League Cup final.
- The last time they lost in the FA Cup away from the Emirates was in 2012 – a 2-0 loss at Sunderland.
- This will be the Blues’ seventh FA Cup final this century – a joint-high with Arsenal.
- Chelsea have been victorious in their last four FA Cup final appearances, all by single-goal margins.
- Their last FA Cup final defeat was the 2-0 loss to Arsenal in Cardiff in 2002.
- Overall, they have won the FA Cup seven times and been runners-up on four occasions.
- The Blues have won nine of 11 major finals under the ownership of Roman Abramovich – with their two defeats both coming in 2008 (the Champions League final versus Manchester United and League Cup final against Tottenham).
- Chelsea, who were Double winners in 2010, can become only the third team to achieve the feat more than once, following in the footsteps of Manchester United and Arsenal (who have three each).
- Antonio Conte’s only major final as a coach was in 2012, when his Juventus side were beaten 2-0 by Napoli in the Coppa Italia – meaning they missed out on the Double.
The optimist in me is going for a 2-1 win for Arsenal.
Thanks for reading! Please comment on this post, subscribe by email, share with friends and follow me on twitter (@thedanielcowan). Please check out the official NLIR Facebook page http://facebook.com/northlondonisredblog for news, views, freebies and more.
Don’t forget to tune into the funniest Arsenal podcast around “Goonersphere Podcast“
Advertise your business here! Click here for details .