Arsenal have a chance to put a smile on their fan’s face on Saturday. That’s if they are able to take care of League Champions, Chelsea in the FA Cup Final.

Both sides have met twice this year, with each having a win apiece. The FA Cup final will be the decider between two teams with a lot of bad blood between them.

Chelsea would be hoping to do a double, and with the way the kind of season they’ve had, you can’t bet against them. Arsenal on the other hand are no pushovers. The Gunners ended the season on a positive note, winning seven out of their last 8 in all competitions. The switch in formation also helped too.

MATCH STATS

Head-to-head

  • 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

  • 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.

Chelsea

  • 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.

(Stats courtesy of BBC)

TEAM NEWS

Arsenal’s main worry in this game is the defence. Laurent Koscielny (suspension) and Gabriel Paulista (injury) are both out. It’s unclear if Shkodran Mustafi would recover on time from the concussion that kept him out of the win against Everton. That has left Arsenal with Rob Holding, Nacho Monreal and Per Mertesacker – whose only appearance was in the final game of the season.

Kierran Gibbs and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are doubts, although there are indications both could be available. Alexis Sanchez is also expected to be available. Santi Cazorla remains a long-term absentee.

Chelsea on the other hand have a full squad to choose from. The only player they have out is Ruben Loftus-Cheek who’s out with a back injury.

LINE UP

I expect Arsenal to maintain the same 3-4-3 formation they adopted towards the end of the season. I expect to see a Back 3 combination of Holding, Monreal and Mustafi – if fit. If not, then BFG gets the nod. Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey should retain their position in the middle while Ox and Gibbs should be in the Wing Backs role. If Gibbs isn’t fit enough, then Hector Bellerin should come on in his stead.

Ozil and Alexis should also retain their places. The problem upfront is who will spearhead the attack. Danny Welbeck, though had two assists against Everton, hasn’t been impressive. Olivier Giroud’s lack of pace might not cause Chelsea a lot of problem, but his physicality will. Theo Walcott and Lucas Perez are other option but they won’t get the nod.

Chelsea wouldn’t have the problems Arsenal have. Where they could have a bit of headache is whether to play Fabregas or Kante alongside Matic. And that is a beautiful kind of headache to have.

PREDICTION

How Arsenal lines up in defence is going to matter. The defenders have got to be wary of the threat posed by Chelsea attacking trio of Hazard, Costa and Pedro. Communication is key regardless of whoever it is plays in defence.

Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey need to ensure they keep things tight in the middle as that is where the game would be won and lost; they also have to get the ball quickly to the attackers on time. We need to cut supply to Eden Hazard and Pedro and try as much as possible to limit the influence of their wing backs.

If we can transition quickly from defence to attack, then we have a chance. Kante has been phenomenal for them this season. The Arsenal players need to limit his influence on the game.

This is going to be a great game and although, almost all odds are against us, I see us pulling a shocker here. We are going to win 2 – 1.

 

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