With Arsenal gunning for a third FA cup title in four years, the stage is set for this season’s Emirates FA cup final between them and Premier League champions, Chelsea and should the Gunners achieve it, embattled manager, Arsene Wenger, would become the most successful in the history of the competition.
Saturday’s final will be Arsenal’s 20th appearance in the final, a tournament record, as they look to end the season on a high note after they missed out on champions league football for the first time in 20 years by finishing fifth in the league.
Arsenal have featured in at least five FA cup finals since the turn of the millennium, losing just once, in 2001, to Liverpool. However, for their latest appearance in the final, standing in their way is London rivals, Chelsea, the newly crowned PL champions and for Wenger, the team simply wants to win.
“The team has given so much and they really want to win something this season,” Wenger said.
For Chelsea, still smarting from lifting their fifth PL title, and the first under Italian manager, Antonio Conte, the Blues hope to make it a double to give Conte what would be a perfect start to his career in English football.
A win for Chelsea would see Conte become just the only fourth Italian to win the FA Cup, and like the Gunners, The Blues haven’t lost in their last four appearances in in the FA cup final, but interestingly, their last defeat in the FA final was inflicted on them by Saturday’s opponent, Arsenal, setting the stage for what would be an intriguing finale at Wembley in few hours time.
For Conte, it’s all about finding the right motivation for his champions.
“To find the right motivation and the right side and right will because when you win the league, your mind is still celebrating,” Conte said.
“This is a big opportunity to win the FA cup,” the Italian added.
Arsenal are quite thin at the back, with Gabriel Paulista’s season all but over, after he sustained a knee injury in their last game of the PL season against Everton at the Emirates, a game which saw Laurent Koscielny sent off, meaning he misses today’s match due to suspension. German international, Shkodran Mustafi could be available, but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alex Sanchez, and Kieran Gibbs are all expected to be available.
For Chelsea, they have no injury concerns heading into the final, but the only issue Conte would have is on who starts.
Match stats, as provided by Opta
The Gunners have won each of their last six matches at Wembley, the best run at the ground.
Theo Walcott is this season’s top scorer in the competition with five goals to his credit.
Pedro has scored or assisted six goals for Chelsea en route the final.
A Spaniard has scored in two of the last three FA cup finals, Santo Cazorla in 2014 and Juan Mata in 2016.
Arsenal will be playing in their 20th FA cup appearance, the most in the competition’s history.
Chelsea haven’t lost in their last four appearances in the FA cup final, but Arsenal were the last team to beat them in an FA cup final, back in 2001/2002 season.
The champions of the PL have won the FA Cup 11 out of 18 times they’ve played in the final, with Chelsea the last to achieve that in 2010.
Arsenal and Chelsea have played 189 times, with the Gunners having the upper hands with 73 wins to Chelsea’s 62.
In their last five matches, Arsenal have won two, including their last at Wembley, in the community shield in 2015.
I expect an entertaining FA cup final, with both sides going for the win, with Chelsea playing on the counter, as they usually do. Both sides come into the final on the backdrop of a very good form, winning their last five matches, though Arsenal missed out on a place in the CL on the last day, while Chelsea lifted the PL diadem.
However, given how thin the 12 times FA cup winners, Arsenal, are at the back, it’s Chelsea’s title to lose. So, i’d go for a 2-1 Chelsea win, but won’t rule out Arsenal taking the game into extra time.