The Battle of London
Arsenal and Chelsea are set to face off at Wembley in the FA Cup final. The London clubs have had vastly different seasons, but both will want to set that aside and push for the win on Saturday.
Arsenal have had quite the disappointing season by their usual standards. Their 6th-place finish marked their first time outside of the top four in 21 years, while their local rivals Tottenham finished above them in the table for the first time in 22 years. Tomorrow’s final provides the Gunners with an opportunity to salvage their season with a trophy.
Meanwhile, Chelsea have had a thrilling season under new manager Antonio Conte that saw them become Premier League champions for the second time in three years. The club will view the FA Cup as a great opportunity to finish their season on an even higher note with an additional trophy.
• Arsenal will be looking to win their 13th FA Cup, which would take them above Manchester United for most wins
• Chelsea are playing for their 8th FA Cup win, which would make them level with Tottenham for third-most wins
• This is only the second time these teams are playing in an FA Cup final. The last one was in 2002, where Arsenal defeated Chelsea 2-0
Conte will have a full-strength squad to rely on, with no injuries or suspensions hurting Chelsea’s chances of winning.
On the other hand, Arsenal will have defensive issues as Laurent Koscielny is suspended and Gabriel is out with a knee injury. Both absences originated from Arsenal’s last match of the season against Everton, where Koscielny received a red card and Gabriel had to be substituted.
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Cech; Monreal, Holding, Mertesacker, Bellerín; Coquelin, Xhaka; Walcott, Özil, Sánchez; Welbeck
Chelsea (3-4-3): Courtois; Luiz, Cahill, Azpilicueta; Alonso, Kanté, Matic, Moses; Hazard, Costa, Pedro
Arsenal will suffer with the loss of so many of their vital defenders. Arsene Wenger had found a strong formation in the 3-4-3, but without enough center-backs Arsenal will likely have no choice but to line up in a 4-2-3-1.
This formation puts much more pressure on the central midfielders to shield the back four, so if they are not on point with their positioning on Saturday then Arsenal will appear to be very vulnerable to Chelseas’s attacks.
Chelsea, with their strongest starting lineup in their trusted 3-4-3 formation, will be able to attack in different ways to break Arsenal down. Whether it’s through the wings with the likes of Alonso and Moses, or through counter attacks led by Eden Hazard, Chelsea will find ways to put stress on Arsenal’s defense and score eventually.
Chelsea 3-1 Arsenal
With a shaky and untested backline, Arsenal will face a myriad of problems against the Premier League champions at full strength.
Arsenal are coming off of a disappointing league campaign, where they missed out on Champions League qualification. They fought until the last day of the season, including playing with 10 men for most of the match against Everton.
But Chelsea won the league two games early and have been extremely fortunate with injuries. They will be fully prepared to take the game to Arsenal and secure another trophy win in strong fashion.
However, Arsenal’s counterattacking ability means that they will likely be able to find the back of the net at some point.