‘It’s good to have an end to journey towards, but it’s the journey that matters in the end’.Ursula K Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness
While the FA Cup journey this year has been rewarding for Blues fans given the difficult opposition Chelsea have had to overcome, ultimately it is this weekend’s result in the final against Arsenal that matters in the end. This will be the third FA Cup final clash between these two London rivals with both clubs looking to earn their manager, and former players, their first major trophy to end the season on a high. Will Arteta’s men have enough ammo to outgun Frank’s troops, or will Lampard’s Chelsea give Arsenal the Blues?
Although the Gunners continue to underwhelm in the Premier League (PL), finishing 8th this campaign, they will feel confident heading into the FA Cup final following their strong performance against Manchester City in the Semi-Final, and have a sense of entitlement given their impressive record in the tournament being 13-time winners of the Cup.
On the other side of the ledger, Chelsea met their PL season objective finishing in 4th place to ensure they continue featuring in Europe’s elite competition the Champions League. Additionally, Chelsea will also be optimistic given their equally strong showing against the other Manchester team to book their date with Arsenal in the final.
While the Gunners have the upper hand based on our past two FA Cup finals clashes in 2002 (2-0) and 2017 (2-1) respectively, it is Chelsea who have had the more recent taste of FA Cup glory in 2018. With Chelsea having 8 FA Cups, 6 of which have come since the turn of the millennium, the Blues are steadily chipping away at Arsenal’s record and will look to become the competition’s best in the coming years and further reinforce the notion that ‘London is Blue’!
Before the last dance, below is a snapshot of that impressive journey taken by Super Frank and his Super squad in reaching this year’s final.
Third Round – Chelsea vs. Nottingham Forest (Stamford Bridge) – 6th January 2020
50 years from the Blues’s first FA Cup triumph, we kick off with a comfortable home win!
In this clash, the Blues came up against Nottingham Forest and fortunately were able to set the scene early through a finely taken goals by a sharp Callum Hudson-Odoi (CHO) and Ross Barkley, and thwart a spirited effort from the Championship side. A strong performance from the Premier League powerhouses who would only be disappointed in not being able to convert more of their dominance into goals. In the end, a 2-0 victory would suffice.
- Chelsea wore an amazing special retro jersey to mark the anniversary of the start of the historic campaign for the Blues as they won their first FA Cup triumph back in 1970.
- In the 6th minute CHO scored a sublime goal to set the scene for a strong Blues performance. This involved a superb piece of individual brilliance from the teen sensation who received the ball to the right of the area following a splendid 1-2 between Pedro and Batshuayi, and cut inside to beat his man before unleashing a strong low drive into the bottom corner at the near post from 10 yards.
- In the 33rd minute Barkley doubled the score line via a tap-in as CHO’s curling effort was palmed away into the path of the opportunistic Barkley who happily accepted the gift on the platter to make it 2-0 to the Blues.
- In the second half Barkley and CHO almost added a 3rd for Chelsea as the former had his header bounce back of the post, with the latter having their ferocious low drive tipped wide.
- VAR correctly cancelled out a penalty claim and an offside goal for Forest and ensured the Blues would not be breached on the night.
Final Result: Chelsea 2-0 Nottingham Forest
Fourth Round – Chelsea vs. Hull City (KCOM Stadium) – 26th January 2020
The Lions edge the Tigers 2-1 as Chelsea book a Last Sixteen clash against the Champions Elect.
The Blues continued where they left off following their victory against Nottingham Forest and put in another dominant display albeit were again unable to put the game to bed which allowed the home side to score late and set up a cagey finish. An early deflected strike from bench warmer Batshuayi followed by a crisp header from ex-Tiger Tomori were enough to give the Hull City faithful the blues.
- In the 6th minute (just like against Nottingham Forest), Batshuayi opened the scoring with a heavily deflected shot that spiralled its way into the Tigers goal. The highlight of the goal involved the build-up as a supreme long through ball from Croatian sensation Mateo Kovacic found Captain Azpilicueta, who delivered a terrific first time cross to Mount which ended up rebounding to Batshuayi to bundle it in from 13 yards.
- Kovacic delivered yet again another defence-splitting pass as his needle-threading through ball to Mount presented him a 1:1 which was saved by Hull City’s keeper.
- In the 64th minute rising star Fikayo Tomori ghosts in at the back post and applies a firm downward header to further silence the home crowd. This followed a pinpoint pass from a Barkley free-kick.
- In the 78th minute the Tigers were given a lifeline as they poached an undeserved goal from a free-kick which took a major deflection that wrong-footed Caballero. Perhaps it was justice in response to the Blues opener.
Final Result: Chelsea 2-1 Hull City
Fifth Round – Chelsea vs. Liverpool (Stamford Bridge) – 4th March 2020
A Star is born and a Scouser shines under the lights at SW6 as Lampard bests Klopp.
Back at the Bridge, and wearing the-then regular home jersey (Yokohama), the Blues delivered an all-round terrific performance, spearheaded by the Scottish Iniesta (Billy Gilmour), to turn Klopp red and send Premier League champions Liverpool crashing out of the FA Cup in a 2-0 defeat. Goals on either side of the break from Willian and Barkley proved to be the difference in an exciting contest involving the Premier League’s heavyweights and old rivals.
- In the 13th minute Willian opened up the scoring following a howler from stand-in keeper Adrian. The strange sequence involved an initial shot by Willian which was actually well saved and regathered by Adrian. However, during Liverpool’s attempt to play it out from the back, Fabinho turned over the ball (his first not-so-memorable moment of the night, I.e. Gilmour career-shattering nutmeg) due to the terrific press, which resulted in Willian having a second crack from the edge of the area which Adrian somehow fumbled the ball into the corner.
- At 1-0, Kepa pulled off a superb triple save to keep Liverpool at bay! For all of the vulnerability and insecurity Kepa has shown throughout the season, this was a vital moment in the game given the precarious score line.
- Mount had his terrific free kick from the edge of the area rattle the cross bar and go over – very unlucky!
- In the 64th minute, Barkley dribbled 50 yards under no pressure and unleashed a rocket into the bottom corner! This was as a result from a fantastic Pedro interception to get the move going.
- Pedro expertly intercepted the ball between two Liverpool players following a clearance from a corner and raced 60 yards only to have his tame shot saved. Would have been a FA Cup goal of the season contender!
- Giroud has a side-footed effort deflected to the underside of the bar which agonisingly bounced on the wrong side of the line! In fairness to Adrian, he got a vital fingertip to change its trajectory. Shout out to Azpilicueta for his sensational long through ball to find Giroud to create the chance.
Final Result: Chelsea 2-0 Liverpool
Quarter Final – Chelsea vs. Leicester City (King Power Stadium) – 29th June 2020
After a poor start, the Lions get their act together to maul the Foxes and earn a date at Wembley.
The Premier League’s top 4 hopefuls Leicester and Chelsea locked horns in a tight affair which saw only a solitary goal from super sub Ross Barkley volley home from close range separate the two and send the Blues into the semi-final against the Red Devils. While Leicester looked the brighter of the two in the opening exchanges, Lampard’s men grew as the match progressed in a deserved narrow win in the end.
- Chelsea were fortunate to not concede in the early stages as Leicester squandered a few gilt-edged chances to punish a lethargic Blues.
- Pulisic used his sublime first touch to take the ball inside the box and unleashed a fierce drive which Schmeichel was able to tip over the bar given the central nature of the shot.
- Barnes and Vardy had a couple of decent chances to open the scoring but failed to test Cabellero.
- In the 63rd minute, it was one of Frank’s half-time triple substitutes, Ross Barkley who scored in his 3rd goal of the campaign with a delightfully-steered side-foot volley from 8 yards following a perfect cross from Willian. Worth noting that there was a nice build-up from Rudiger, Azplilicueta and Willian before Barkley latched onto the inch-perfect final ball.
- Chelsea target Ben Chilwell made a longrun into Chelsea territory and had a shot from the edge of the area which was easily claimed by Caballero.
- Not long after Caballero had a moment he would rather have back as his air swing from a hopeful ball into the back post was latched onto by Turkish defender Soyunchu but fortunately Captain courageous Azpilicueta got his head in the way to help deflect it away from goal. A near miss!
- Towards the latter stages goal scorer Barkley failed to adequately capitalise on a 4 v 2 situation and while he had a decent shot parried away by Schmeichel, it was a major chance blundered.
- Leicester had one final push at the death but Wilfred’s side foot effort sailed just wide, Chelsea lucky Ndidi…
Final Result: Chelsea 1-0 Leicester
Semi Final – Chelsea vs. Manchester United (Wembley Stadium) – 20th July 2020
Fourth time’s the charm as Giroud, Mount and a little help from the world’s most expensive defender seals our spot in the Final!
After a tense start, Lampard’s men grew into the game and asserted their authority over an in-form Red Devils to secure a well-deserved 3-1 win and earn a place in the 2020 FA Cup final against London rivals Arsenal. Although Bruno Penandes continued his hot-streak from the spot, it was a mere consolation as goals from Giroud, Mount and an own goal from Maguire were enough to see Chelsea give Ole and his men the Blues.
- Reece James (RJ) had a powerful long range effort punched away by De Gea.
- Alonso had a strong header sail over the bar following a lovely cross to the back post by Azplicueta.
- Fernandes had a decent free-kick from 25 yards tipped over by Caballero.
- Zouma had a glancing header sail over the cross bar following a good piece of skill from Mount to bean Wan-Bissaka to float in a nice cross for Kurt.
- On the stroke of half-time, following good link-up between the old guard Willian and Azpilicueta, Giroud was able to get a flick on the ball at the near post to steer it past De Gea.
- Almost immediately after the restart, Mount doubled the lead for Chelsea as a fine press from RJ led Williams turning over the ball to Mount who dribbled towards the goal and had a decent, not spectacular, shot somehow spilled into the corner by De Gea. While De Gea could have / should have done better with Giroud’s attempt, there’s no disputing that this was a textbook definition of keeper error.
- Rashford had an opportunity on the counter to halve the deficit however dragged his shot wide of the far post, near miss for Chelsea.
- Mount had a shot fizzle just over the bar following Willian’s cut-back and Giroud’s dummy. Would have been a classy goal!
- Giroud had his half-volley from 7 yards saved by a flying De Gea.
- From a United corner, Maguire headed wide of an open goal following Caballero’s air swing.
- From a Chelsea corner, RJ had his own header saved acrobatically again by De Gea but as United couldn’t adequately clear the danger, Mount fed Alonso out wide who delivered a powerful low cross to force Maguire into steering it past De Gea given the pressure of Rudiger who was likely to score himself had Maguire not got their first.
- While Fernandes got his customary penalty following an unfortunate challenge by substitute CHO, United never looked like staging a comeback. In fact, it was the substitutes Abraham and CHO who combined well on the flanks to create an opportunity for CHO who unfortunately blazed over.
Final Result: Chelsea 3-1 Manchester United
Final – Arsenal vs. Chelsea – 01 August 2020
COME ON YOU BLUES!
Keep an eye on SW6Daily for more FA Cup Final content, including our preview and predictions as we count down to the big day.
Written by: Ross-John (RJ) Bonaccorsi (@RJ_Goodthings)
Edited by: Ross-John (RJ) Bonaccorsi, Rob Pratley and Jai Mcintosh