First Piece Of Managerial Silverware
At least one of Mikel Arteta or Frank Lampard will get their hands on their first piece of silverware as a manager, though it’s the former that probably needs it more with his Arsenal side finishing down in eighth and outside the European slots.
A crucial fourth-place finish and an FA Cup to boot would however be a fantastic achievement for Chelsea after selling star man Eden Hazard last summer and being unable to replace the Belgian owing to their transfer ban at the time.
Recent Form And Head-To-Heads
These two have played each other twice under current management so far. The first saw Chelsea seal a late comeback in December to win 2-1 at the Emirates, though that was only Arteta’s second game in the dugout and when they met a month later the Gunners came back twice to draw 2-2.
There’s certainly been an improvement under the Spaniard as he’s brought an identifiable playing style. More recent clashes with the big guns provide an indication of this, particularly victories over Liverpool and Man City, with Arteta now a reasonably impressive W4-D2-L3 in domestic encounters with the teams that finished above them in the table.
However, against the same bracket of opposition, Chelsea have won six of seven matches since late February, with their pulsating 5-3 loss to Liverpool in their penultimate league game the exception.
It also includes victories over Man City, Leicester, Man Utd and Wolves since the restart in June, with the wins over the Foxes (QF) and Red Devils (SF) coming in this competition.
The Gunners certainly shouldn’t be taken lightly at Wembley though. Their semi-final win over Man City leaves them a fantastic W7-D3-L1 there in cup competitions going back to April 2014, as they triumphed either in extra time or on penalties following each stalemate.
However, it’s not as though Chelsea aren’t in familiar surroundings either. These two London sides have largely dominated the FA Cup in recent years, with last 11 editions seeing Chelsea lift the trophy four times and Arsenal on three occasions.
Four of five head-to-head meetings since the start of last season have seen both teams find the net, as those same four games saw at least three goals each.
These clashes were even in terms of venue with two played at the Emirates, two at Stamford Bridge and the other in Azerbaijan for last season’s Europa League final, with Chelsea holding the upper hand over this period (W3-D1-L1).
Both Teams To Score
We wouldn’t expect clean sheets here either. Arteta switched to a back four last time out against Watford for the first time in 10 matches, though having conceded twice versus the relegated Hornets, we’d expect him to revert to the 3-4-3 that gave his rearguard extra protection over this period.
However, he is without injured centre-backs Shkodran Mustafi, Pablo Mari and Calum Chambers, leaving him with the hardly inspiring options of David Luiz, Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Rob Holding, while he could push left-back Kieran Tierney inside.
Chelsea To Beat Arsenal
There appears no way back for either Mesut Ozil or Matteo Guendouzi and Arteta is also without young attacking starlet Gabriel Martinelli, while Emi Martinez will continue to deputize for the injured Bernd Leno between the sticks.
It’s not as though Lampard has no injury concerns either with N’Golo Kante in a race to be fit (most likely for the bench) and Billy Gilmour unavailable, though he can call upon greater strength in depth and bring Jorginho back into the mix.
Willian, who continues to be linked with a move to the Gunners, could also sit out having missed the final league game hosting Wolves, though Chelsea’s attack remains in good shape regardless.
Chelsea To Beat Arsenal 2-1
Although Chelsea look better equipped on paper, we would expect this to be a tight game. In 27 outings under Arteta now, Arsenal have lost by more than a single goal just once, against Man City, with four of their six defeats finishing 2-1 and the other 1-0.
Further, only two of the past 12 FA Cup finals have gone to extra time, with eight of these settled by a one-goal margin within 90 minutes.
With that in mind, the 2-1 correct score looks a tasty price, with Chelsea and Arsenal possessing the two worst defensive records amongst the top nine in the final Premier League standings.