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Five key duels as Arsenal, Chelsea jostle for season-ending FA Cup triumph

Two club legends, Mikel Arteta and Frank Lampard, now turned managers of Arsenal and Chelsea, seek the first trophy of their managerial careers at the hallowed Wembley pitch on Saturday.

It was supposed to be a Manchester derby in the FA Cup final, but the two London giants turned up with excellent performances to overturn the odds and many pundits’ choice. So, the 2020 domestic season will end with Mikel Arteta and Frank Lampard jostling for their first managerial career Cup wins.

While Chelsea ended the season in fourth and secured a Champions League ticket, their London neighbours, Arsenal, ended the season in eighth place, which makes winning the FA Cup their only route into Europe. Will this greater motivation see the Gunners over the Blues?

According to the Chelsea website, Arsenal are the Blues’ most frequent FA Cup opponents. They have already met 21 times in the competition with Arsenal triumphant on nine occasions while Chelsea have won five times. The rest have been drawn but the more poignant statistic is that Arsenal have beaten Chelsea on the two occasions they met in the FA Cup final–in 2002 and 2017.

Hector Bellerin v Christian Pulisic

This will be a major battle as both jostles for superiority in midfield. Bellerin has been the preferred right wing-back in the big games and the sometimes Arsenal captain loves going forward, shown very well by the well-taken late equaliser in their league meeting in January. But in Pulisic, he will contend with Chelsea’s key man after the restart or else Rob Holding could be in for a torrid afternoon. Bellerin is a dogged player, but he often lacks in the defensive side of his game, something Arteta will have warned him on as he comes up against the tricky Pulisic.

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Dani Ceballos v Mateo Kovacic

Ceballos has come good at Arsenal after the initial hiccups under Unai Emery, and he comes up against Kovacic, who is also very adept at breaking through the lines. Two highly technical players, who are not known for their destructive qualities, will hope to cancel the other out and help his team unto the front foot. Ceballos has been adept at playing in the hole and instigating attacks as Arsenal break free of the press–able to receive passes from defenders with his back to the pitch and turning instantly to lead Arsenal’s attack–almost the same quality Kovacic possesses, though the Croat travels far better with the ball than the Spaniard.

David Luiz v Olivier Giroud

Surely, former Chelsea defender Luiz will be chomping at the bit for this encounter, but in Giroud, he will face a striker truly in his element. Giroud already boasts four FA Cup triumphs and despite age and a lack of speed, the Frenchman is wily enough to create space to score, especially with headers. Luiz was inspired in the 2-0 win over Manchester City in the semi-finals, and you can bet he will be up for this one as well.

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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang v Reece James

Where would Arsenal be without the goals of their captain? His two goals in the semis took his team into the final and he will look to complete the task by helping the Gunners book a ticket into Europe.

While James has had a spark by winning a berth in this Chelsea team, his positioning and concentration are soft targets for opponents. The Chelsea youngster is strong, but he still assumes too much, which gives a smart striker like Aubameyang the ample chance to wreak havoc. If Chelsea deploy a 3-4-3 formation, then James will have the assurance of Cesar Azpilicueta to add more insurance and live tutoring to quell the threat of the Gabonese striker.

Granit Xhaka v Mason Mount

The major Arsenal renaissance since Arteta waltzed into the Emirates has been Xhaka. Who would have thought the Swiss, who had a fallout with Arsenal fans, will become one of the first names on the Arsenal first team sheet? In Mount, Chelsea have their own bright spark, though younger and nippier. Mount leads the press and Xhaka sometimes dawdles on the ball, which could become Arsenal’s weakness.

A former Gunner and Blue reveals the difference

Former Gunner and Blue Cesc Fabregas told the Daily Telegraph, “Arsenal need it more but Chelsea basically every year has won a trophy, so it’s a different animal in this case.”

Fabregas won the FA Cup once with both Arsenal and Chelsea but reveals a major difference between both teams. “At Arsenal, there were fantastic, top, top players, but at Chelsea, we didn’t really care if one day we had to win 1-0 by not touching the ball for the whole match.”

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Arsenal v Chelsea in major finals

2001/02 FA Cup final Arsenal 2 – 0 Chelsea

2006/07 League Cup final Arsenal 1 – 2 Chelsea

2016/17 FA Cup final Arsenal 2 – 1 Chelsea

2018/19 Europa League final Arsenal 1 – 4 Chelsea

Recent Form: Arsenal [W-L-W-W-L]; Chelsea [W-L-W-W-L]

Head to head

21/01/20 PRL Chelsea 2 – 2 Arsenal

29/12/19 PRL Arsenal 1 – 2 Chelsea

29/05/19 UEL Chelsea 4 – 1 Arsenal

19/01/19 PRL Arsenal 2 – 0 Chelsea

18/08/18 PRL Chelsea 3 – 2 Arsenal

Prediction: Arsenal 2-1 Chelsea

Managers’ Speak

The only aim, the only focus, and all our energy is going to be on winning that trophy, it doesn’t matter where we start. We know the opponent that we’re going to have in front of us and the rest is a consequence of our performance and what we do on the day. – Mikel Arteta, Arsenal Manager

“Most of the players have played in critical games before, they have experiences of high level games. I just want them to perform like they have at times this season.” – Frank Lampard, Chelsea Manager

Referee: Anthony Taylor

Probable XIs

Arsenal [3-4-3]: Martinez; Holding, Luiz, Tierney; Saka, Xhaka, Ceballos, Bellerin; Aubameyang, Lacazette, Pepe

Chelsea [3-4-3]: Caballero; Azpilicueta, Zouma, Rudiger; James, Jorginho, Kovacic, Alonso; Pulisic, Giroud, Willian

The match kicks off at 5:30 pm on Saturday.


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