Arsenal have failed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time since Wenger took over the North London team in 1996. The 2016-17 season for Arsenal reached an all-time low with the fans wanting their manager out every time their players walk out onto the field. Here are the Preview and Match predictions for the FA Cup Final : Arsenal vs Chelsea.
Walking into the FA Cup Final, the Gunners have looked ever-so-confident in league, with back-to-back victories over their rivals, including Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United. On the other hand, Antonio Conte’s Chelsea have wrapped up the league in spectacular style, winning 30 out of their 38 league games.
The transformation for Conte’s side from a meagre team to the best one in England began after their loss at the hands of Wenger’s Arsenal on 24th September. The focus was firmly on Conte, who shifted from a four-man-defence to a rather familiar three-man-defence formation, which he had utilized in the past.
It was just Conte warming up to the challenge of the Premier League. Who would have ever thought that by the end of the season, Arsenal too would try out the three-man-defence which Arsenal has just used once in his lifetime.
Fast-forward to the FA Cup final, the season for both sides have reached two dire ends, Arsenal have failed to finish fourth to qualify for Champions League while Chelsea has emphatically driven the title home.
The Gunners, additionally are the FA Cup specialists in the recent years, given that they have not lost any of their last five games in the FA Cup final after Liverpool edged them out in 2001. This victory would take them one above Manchester United’s tally of 12 FA Cup Finals. While Conte could become the fifth Italian manager to win the competition and the first in the last six years.
For Arsenal, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been in the reckoning after recovering from his hamstring injury. Defensively, Wenger is out of options as Laurent Koscielny is suspended from the finals, after his rash tackle against Everton on the final day of Premier League action.
Gabriel too has been deemed unfit after failing to recover from a knee injury, meaning the German, Per Mertesacker could make a first start for the Gunners in over a year now. Shkodran Mustafi and Keiron Gibbs are still under struggling with illness and an injury to the calf respectively.
ALSO READ : Mohun Bagan refuses to submit ISL bid document
For Chelsea, Conte has all the options at his disposal. While he has all the options, he must take the decision of either picking up the in-form striker Pedro or winger Willian behind the defensive prowess of Cesc Fabregas or Nemanja Matic. Chelsea;s 36-year-old defender John Terry is likely to start the match on the bench in what is his last game at the club.
This will be the second FA Cup final contested between Arsenal and Chelsea. The Gunners triumphed in the 2002 FA Cup Final in Cardiff 2-0, with goals from Ray Parlour and Freddie Ljungberg.
Wenger could win his third FA Cup in four seasons by beating Chelsea. Should his team lift the trophy, he would be set a record for most FA Cup wins as a manager (7, currently on 6 with George Ramsay).
Conte’s only previous domestic cup final as a manager (excluding Super Cups) came at Juventus, losing 2-0 to Napoli in 2011/12.
Chelsea haven’t lost any of their last four FA Cup Finals, all of which have been contested at Wembley (2007, 2009, 2010 and 2012). The last team to beat them in an FA Cup Final were in fact Arsenal in 2001/02.
The eventual top-flight champions have also gone on to win the FA Cup on 11 of the 18 occasions they’ve played in the final, most recently Chelsea in 2010. The last team to fail to win the double having reached the final was Manchester United in 2007.
This is Arsenal’s 20th FA Cup final appearance, the most in history.
Theo Walcott is the top-scoring player left in the competition with five goals. He scored the opening goal for Arsenal in their 2015 final win over Aston Villa (4-0).
Pedro has scored four times and assisted another two Chelsea goals en route to the FA Cup Final. A Spaniard has scored in the FA Cup final in two of the last three years (Santi Cazorla 2014 and Juan Mata 2016). Pedro is the only Chelsea player to reach double figures for both goals (13) and assists (11) in all competitions this season.
The Gunners have won each of their last six games at Wembley. This is their best run at the ground (new or old).
Alexis Sanchez has been involved in 44 goals in 50 appearances for Arsenal so far in 2016-17 (29 goals, 15 assists).
While Chelsea’s attack is blazing all guns, Arsenal’s arsenal at defence is rather unconvincing for a big FA Cup final. If the German Mustafi starts at the back, it would mean that Wenger would opt for a safer four-man-defence and his option would leave the Gunners reeling for some emergency defending.
Playing Mertesacker at the back would leave Wenger’s side out for pace. A fit Mustafi could start alongside the rookie Rob Holding at the back of the defence after Holding started the last premier league game against the Merseyside Everton. The young defender has all the exploits to become a top defender alongside Gabriel at North of London.
Chelsea is more likely than not to drive home another FA Cup trophy as they are the in-form team and have a chance at the double after the league victory. Conte would want to write off the trophy from his list of want-to-do in England while Wenger would want to leave the club with a victory, probably for one last time?