This Saturday’s final seems to have similarities to last year’s horror show in Baku. Chelsea came into the final last year under no pressure since champions league qualification was already secured. The impetus was on us as only a win in Baku would be enough to secure a place in Europe’s most elite competition. We failed miserably. This year, whilst Chelsea have once again secured a place in the champions league, our opportunity to compete in Europe hinges on a win on Saturday.
Our set up and their danger men
Arsene matched Conte’s 3-4-3 system in the 2017 Cup final. We should do the same this Saturday as this system suits the personal of the players we currently have.
4-2-3-1 pre COVID-19, with Ozil in the 10, was favoured. But with his absence, we lack a player who can drift in between the lines and provide a link to the front three, which makes this system ineffective. 4-3-3 is the preferred long term solution but we lack key attributes within our midfield for us to transition to this right now. We don’t have the CB’s who can play in a back 4 successfully, meaning a 3 at the back would provide us extra solidity and is the short term solution.
Assuming Chelsea play Giroud ahead of Abraham, 3-4-3 will help nullify supply lines out wide, which in turn will minimise the impact the Frenchman can have in the box. Arteta will know this and an example where he displayed ‘tactical excellence’ was recognising Sheffield United’s serious threat out wide with their ‘overlapping wide CB’s’. Nearly 80% of Sheffield United’s attacks stem through the wide areas. We nullified this with a back five out of possession, and was key to limiting clear cut chances from occurring. We need to implement the same system against Chelsea. Wins against Wolves, Liverpool and obviously City in the semi final, with the 3-4-3 system, provides clear evidence that we can utilise it successfully against top teams.
Going back to our FA cup semi final victory against Pep’s side, the goal was to prevent Sterling or Mahrez from cutting inside, forcing them to go wide. Although we tried to stop crosses, we knew that if they managed to squeeze them through, Luiz and Mustafi would deal with the aerial duels against Jesus.
But in this game, we can’t let players like Willian and Pulisic get crosses into the box because of the threat Giroud provides. The Frenchman’s hold up play is also key in terms of providing a link between their midfield and attack. Luiz and Holding must therefore be aggressive when Chelsea go long and look to involve him in the game. I’d task Xhaka to create ‘sandwich scenarios’ by positioning himself in front of Giroud, with a CB behind. This may help minimise him from holding the ball up effectively and laying it off to his fellow players.
We know that both Pulisic and Willian are serious threats but with this system installed, I believe we can contain them. One thing we can’t afford to happen is allow Jorginho to have time and space on the ball. A player who is so influential in possession, constantly recycling the ball and providing ball retention. His high number of passes completed over the last two seasons show this. We saw this at the Emirates when Frank brought him on before half time. His introduction provided Chelsea the control they lacked in midfield during the opening half hour. But if we initiate a press on him, he will make errors, lose possession and then its down to us to capitalise on the turnovers. Kovacic is another player we must be wary of as his ability to carry the ball and free up space for others is a very underrated trait of his.
Unreliable GK’s and their defensive deficiencies
One noticeable area of weakness in this Chelsea side is their inability to deal with set pieces, particularly corners. We saw this at the Emirates with Auba’s goal. They’ve conceded 13 set piece goals this season.
Pepe is our best set piece taker and he must be instructed to take corners on the right hand side. I would just tell him to put it in that danger zone around their keeper. Lets first assume it’s Kepa that’s selected. We have to test him whenever an opportunity arises. His save percentage is as low as 54%, meaning he concedes almost a goal from every two shots faced! It just shows how poor and unreliable he has been for them this season.
Caballero is likely to be between the sticks. But lets be honest, he’s not much better and the same principles apply. Make him uncomfortable with set pieces and provide him a heavy workload in terms of dealing with shots.
None of their CB’s has provided the consistency that Lampard is looking for, all possessing their own individual flaws. They are a big reason as to why they have conceded more goals than us (54) this season. Run’s Auba will make in behind will cause them plenty of problems. When our players receive the ball in attacking areas, they must look up and attempt to pick out his runs as he will make them! Just like Tierney did for his second goal against City.
Whether it’s a 3 or 4 at the back, Chelsea are weak in the full-back areas, particularly at LB and Pepe will be a key figure for us to exploit this too full effect. But it’s vital that Bellerin develops a strong partnership offensively with the Ivorian, as this will enable Pepe to create 1v1 situations against Alonso and avoid him from becoming isolated. If we look at the potential scenario that Lampard opts for a back 4 instead, then either Azpilicueta or Emerson may be preferred. But regardless of who it is, we must target this area of the pitch. Auba and AMN, who I would prefer at LWB, will both be crucial in creating overloads on the left and attacking that area.
Ball progression and quick passing is fundamental in exploiting Jorginho’s deficiencies. As stated previously, he’s very good in possession. But defensively, he is poor and simply will not cope with quick intricate football in midfield, which we hopefully can bring to this game. Ceballos will be key in the way he takes players out of the game with his shoulder drops and turns, as well as being vital in providing forward progressive passes to our front three, giving them more space and time on the ball.
I’m quietly confident that the Wembley arch will be shining red come Saturday night. Why? Because this is a game that will suit us as we know Chelsea wont play low block football. Problems we have had under Arteta, is the ability to break teams down when the onus is on us to impose our game. Against expansive and free flowing teams, like City and Liverpool, we’ve shown to fair well as the 343 formation system suits this.
Chelsea are a team who don’t suit the style of sitting deep, containing and relying on counterattack situations. They will look to play to their strengths which is to play a possession style of football, and create clear goal-scoring opportunities. If we defend as a unit like we did against City, I believe we can nullify their attacking threat. Going forward, there will be spaces to exploit and we have the attacking talent to hurt anyone on their day. I’m going for a 2-1 win, with Pepe and Auba on the score sheet and Arteta’s first taste of silverware in management. COYG!!
Predicted line up: (3-4-3) Martinez, Holding, Luiz, Tierney, Bellerin, Ceballos, Xhaka, AMN, Pepe, Laca, Auba
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22 years of age, 22 years as a Gooner. Arsenal runs through my veins and it pains me to see the current position and state of the club. Reading many football articles over the years has inspired me to write blogs containing Arsenal analysis. I’ve always wanted my fellow Gooners to be aware of my thoughts and opinions of ‘The Arsenal’ and thanks to Dave and Paul, I now have a platform which makes this possible.