Overcoming adversity has arguably been the narrative perpetuated throughout the media for both Frank Lampard and Mikel Arteta this season. Both in their infancy, each manager has proved they have the discipline and tactical understanding to dismantle the toughest opponent. Although both are miles apart on the table (not necessarily Arteta’s fault), neither is under the illusion that this will be an easy game. Expect this FA Cup final to be won through desire rather than tactical setup.
Looking back at previous FA Cup finals, Arsenal without a doubt have covered themselves in glory when facing Chelsea. The 2002 final with goals from Parlour and Ljungberg crowned Arsenal deserving winner of a league and cup double.
More recently the 2017 FA Cup final proved much the same as Wenger lifted the trophy for a record 13 times. It wouldn’t be an Arsenal-Chelsea final without mentioning the heroics in Baku. A game that needs no introduction, other than the fact that it will live fondly in the memories of Chelsea fans forever. However these are two different teams, and how much these finals will affect the current Chelsea and Arsenal teams remains to be seen. With both managers playing a similar style of football and wanting to firmly cement themselves amongst the managerial elite, expect a tentative first half with the onus being placed on not conceding first.
Like all finals, mentality is a deciding factor when it comes to victory, Chelsea usually have this in the nail-biting moments, I’d argue Lampard will have his team mentally prepared for such a monumental occasion. The four-time winner clearly understands the severity of this game. Chelsea may have comfortably finished above the Gunners, but the winner of this may procure a certain edge in future encounters. A game that has the potential to shape the trajectory for both new managers, neither I want to swallow defeat.
Tactically it’s difficult to predict how Lampard will set up his team, as we’ve seen with many other big games this season a change in formation or an acute tweak in style is a common and encouraging trait of Lampard managerial tenure. This being said I certainly feel more confident with Chelsea playing a back three, having both Alonso and Reece as the overlapping wingbacks.
Similarly, Arteta has masked the defensive frailties of his team with an identical formation, with the players like Kieran Tierney and Ashley Maitland Niles impressing. The standout players for both teams will undoubtedly be the forwards. The likes Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will always prove a threat regardless of how involved he is in the game. Sitting slightly deeper, a midfielder that’s going about his work quietly this season, but nevertheless is a vital cog in this improving Arsenal machine, is Granit Xhaka. A player that possesses strength and the ability to find a forward run – expect him to try and dictate the tempo.
For Chelsea, it goes without saying that the likes of Christian Pulisic and N’Golo Kanté will be the deciding factors in the game that means so much to both Lampard and the fans. Pulisic has exceeded expectations and nailed on his starting position for next season. His directness and clinical nature in front of goal conjures up images of both Eden Hazard and Arjen Robben, players of immense flair and attacking prowess. Expect Pulisic to play a vital hand if Chelsea are to win.
Kanté’s injury ridden season aside, Chelsea simply play better with him on the pitch. His productivity and overall game intelligence could win the Chelsea match. Expect a Baku-like performance from the French man who looks to continue his remarkable trophy record.
Weaknesses for both teams revolve around the defence. Chelsea have conceded over 50 goals this season in the Premier League, a record not helped by having statistically the worst keeper of the top flight. With this being said the back three has proved more than adequate for Chelsea in a number of occasions and as mentioned before this should certainly be utilised. Surprisingly Arsenal have looked relatively solid in recent games with the resurgence of Emiliano Martinez helping to sure things up defensively. Although much like Chelsea’s, the Gunner’s backline certainly had a mistake in them and with both having suspect players at the back, a slip at the vital moment or deflection wouldn’t be a surprise.
I’m always apprehensive about giving a score production, I’m usually wrong. But I feel it’s only right, two all and Chelsea to win on penalties with two goals from Olivier Giroud.
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 Charlie Castillo (@castillocg97)
Edited by Jai Mcintosh & Rob Pratley