At the end of a strange and disappointing season at the Emirates, in a long run of strange and disappointing seasons, there is still the opportunity to finish on a high. The first FA Cup final to be played in August, and the first to be played behind closed doors, will mean little in years to come, or indeed for the players receiving either their runners up or winners medals on Saturday. However, it is still an FA Cup final, and a place in the record books for both players and clubs.
With talk in the UK that the cup has lost some of its sheen over recent years, it is easy to forget that overseas there is still a lot of love for the competition. In Norway, for example, The FA Cup final is still one of the most watched club games, harking back to when, like in the UK, it was one of the few live matches available to watch each season. As a consequence, international betting sites such as Unibet will be focusing on this one game, regardless of the fact that it will be played at an empty Wembley Stadium. The same can be said in all four corners of the globe.
Will History Repeat Itself?
The last time the Gunners met Chelsea in the final was in 2017. That was a thriller, with goals from Sanchez and Ramsey securing a 2-1 victory. It was a victory that took the club once more to the head of the field in terms of FA Cup final wins. It also made Wenger the only manager to achieve the feat seven times. That season, however, was ultimately a frustrating one; the Wenger issue was reaching a climax in the stands and in the boardroom, and their final position of fifth was the first time the club had finished outside the top four since the Frenchman’s arrival. The victory helped to send Arsenal fans into their summer with a lighter heart, though it was plain that things needed to change. Ditto this year. Victory over Chelsea will be glorious, but it will be no more than icing on a cake that few are looking at with much of an appetite.
The two teams have met one other time in the final. In the 2001/2 season, Ray Parlour and Freddie Ljungberg both netted in the final twenty minutes of the game to lift the trophy and secure the club’s second league and cup double in five years.
The two league games this season were defined by individual errors. Arteta’s third game in charge looked like he had introduced a cohesion and stability, certainly at the back, that had hitherto been missing. A dreadful mistake by Leno however was the catalyst to turning a 1-0 victory into a 1-2 defeat. The return fixture less than a month later saw Luiz sent off in the 26th minute, but the Gunners rallied to equalize twice.
Arsenal’s form is good. They have won eight of the last ten games, including victories over Liverpool, Man City and Wolves. Aubameyang is firing, and in general they have looked to be more solid at the back, though the spectre of individual errors is still never far away.
Chelsea are also going into the game with their tails up. They have won 11 of their last 15 league games, with wins over Man City, Tottenham, Man United, Wolves and Leicester. In that time they have also lost 3-0 to Sheffield United and 3-2 to West Ham. Crucially, in that same run of games, Frank Lampard’s side have shipped, along with those three against West Ham and Sheffield, two against Bournemouth, five against Liverpool and two against Palace. Liverpool aside, all of those teams have struggled to find the back of the net this season, highlighting the potential frailty of Chelsea’s backline.
Arsenal have certainly been a different team under Arteta, and the signs are encouraging, but no one can ignore the fact that this summer there will need to be changes. Many of the current faces will no doubt be shown the door, and new ones are needed. That is a debate for another day. For the minute, all eyes are on Wembley this Saturday.