It’s fair to say the 2016/17 Premier League season has been a disaster for Arsenal. The club failed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in 19 years. The fans are unhappy and want both the manager and board to relinquish their control over the club. There’s uncertainty around the contracts of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. That’s before even mentioning Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs’ deals – which are both entering their final 12 months.
A victory for Arsenal on Saturday in the FA Cup Final would mean more to the Gunners than it would their opponents Chelsea – or, simply put, the Premier League champions. Although, Chelsea will be desperate to do the double and cap off what has been a fantastic season. And manager Antonio Conte will expect nothing less than 100% from his players as he looks to round off a successful debut year in England.
Arsenal v Chelsea FA Cup Final Preview
But it’s Arsenal that need to salvage their season and give their fans some form of joy as they head into a summer of the unknown. Chelsea will be clear favourites for the tie, going into the game with no injury concerns and having recently celebrated winning the league. Form players like Eden Hazard, N’golo Kante and Diego Costa will be looking to claim Chelsea’s first double since 2010.
Spanish striker Costa will be particularly keen to impress on what will likely be his last game for Chelsea. The 28-year-old looks set to make a big-money move to China in the summer and will want to go out on a high with the Blues.
Arsenal go into the game with a defensive selection crisis. Centre-back Laurent Koscielny misses out through suspension, after being sent off for a reckless challenge on the final day of the league season. Gabriel and Shkodran Mustafi will miss out through injury. Goalkeeper Petr Cech has also been ruled out of the game due to injury.
It looks like Arsenal will end up playing club captain Per Mertesacker at the back, despite the German only featuring for 30-odd minutes this season. David Ospina will also take his position between the sticks. The injury crisis leaves Arsenal with a mountain to climb, and they will clearly be underdogs going into the game.
It seems as if the Gunners will need a miracle to topple the Blues, who will be chomping at the bit to destroy Arsenal’s only hopes of silverware. That, however, may suit Arsene Wenger, and he will look to draw on inspiration from the 2005 FA Cup victory over Manchester United when an under-strength Arsenal team held on to take the game on penalties.
The Wing Match-Up
Saturday’s final is likely to be won on the flanks, with both sets of wing backs having pivotal roles to play. Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses are nailed on to start for Chelsea, but Wenger will have to make a decision on who to play from Hector Bellerin, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Nacho Monreal and Kieran Gibbs. Should Monreal start in the back three, it could make the Frenchman’s decision slightly easier, and we could see Bellerin and Chamberlain lining up on the flanks.
Arsenal know this game could shape their entire future. Lose, and it could very well be Wenger’s last game for the club. Win, and it will go some way to redeeming what has been a disastrous season. For Chelsea, it’s more straightforward: a victory would secure the double and will cap off what has already been a magnificent season for the Blues and Antonio Conte.