Arsenal vs Chelsea FA Cup Final
KO: Saturday, 5:30 pm, Wembley Stadium
Broadcasts: Watch live on BBC One; listen on BBC Radio 5 live and BBC local radio; text commentary on the BBC Sport website.
It’s hard to imagine a near-empty Wembley hosting an FA Cup final, but that’s the reality as Arsenal and Chelsea face each other in a showpiece occasion that has endless subplots. Two of the Premier League’s newest managers, who were once players and captains for their respective clubs come together in an all London clash.
Olivier Giroud, a former Arsenal striker, faces the club he helped destroy in the ill-fated Europa League Cup final of 2019 in Baku. That fateful night was seen by Arsenal fans as the beginning of the end for Unai Emery. Willian has returned to fitness and could feature against the side he has been constantly linked with in recent tabloid transfer speculation.
David Luiz faces his old club with a point to prove to Frank Lampard. The Chelsea boss released him in an £8m transfer to the Gunners after deciding the Brazilian was no longer in his plans.
Both coaches have promoted academy prospects into the first team, some of whom will feature in the Arsenal vs Chelsea FA Cup final. Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham, and Reece James have been given their chances at Stamford Bridge and Arsenal have shown a great deal of faith in Bukayo Saka, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Reiss Nelson, Eddie Nketiah and Joe Willock and this is the perfect stage for one of them to become a hero.
This game could be extremely tactical with Arsenal setting up a barricade defence which surrenders space to permit lightning counter-attacks. No doubt, Arteta will use his blueprint from the Liverpool and Manchester City victories to concede territory, soak up pressure and get the ball down the flanks or over the top to Aubameyang.
This relies on the speed of Tierney, Aubameyang, Bellerin, and Pepe but also, the ingenuity of Lacazette who could keep two Chelsea defenders busy for the majority of the match by making late runs or sitting outside the box in the link-up play.
It’s key that Arsenal provides the service to the strikers and if I were a betting man, I’d put a small amount on Kieran Tierney, Nicolas Pepe, or Bukayo Saka to provide the opportunities. The recent excellent form of Emiliano Martinez will be crucial in the early exchanges as will the understanding and unity of the back three. Arteta could go with a back four, but it’s extremely unlikely and purely down to lack of personnel.
Chelsea have the advantage in their midfield, but the defence is sometimes questionable and their attack is certainly not on par with Arsenal’s riches. The Arsenal vs Chelsea FA Cup final could start as an edgy affair and both sides may have to contain their aggressive enthusiasm or it could quickly deteriorate into a prickly mess.
Hand on heart, this final is Arsenal’s to lose. If they keep it tight and have equal possession, the foals will come, especially if their superstar number 14 feels in the mood. I’m expecting his name on the scoresheet but if Chelsea somehow managed to mark him out of the game, Lacazette will have to be his elusive self to make the all-important chance.
Preferred Team: Martinez; Holding, Luiz, Tierney; Bellerin, Ceballos, Xhaka, Saka; Pepe, Lacazette, Aubameyang.
Predicted Score: 2-1 Arsenal win.
Key Arsenal Players: Tierney, Ceballos, Aubameyang, Luiz.
Key Chelsea Players: Mount, Abraham, Pulisic.