So it’s here – a potential record 14th FA Cup is in the waiting.
Certain clubs haven’t won an FA Cup in nearly thirty years.
We know better! Let’s show them what clubs of true standing exist for – winning.
We’ve won two previous FA Cup finals vs. Chelsea – 2002 and 2017. They’ve beaten us last year in Baku, and in the 2007 League Cup final.
It could be argued that we’re not as fierce underdogs as in 2017, but then as now Chelsea was better in the league.
So what can or will be the action areas for this final?
Strengths and weaknesses
Both sides, even though Chelsea had a better league season, have similar strengths and weaknesses.
Defensively, both are poor. Chelsea conceded more league goals than us. It may seem odd, but it’s a fact.
Kepa as a world-record (as public humiliator of Sarri at Wembley no less…) has been a major flop. Alonso, Rudiger, Aziplicueta, and Christensen are all internationals, but they need a defensive reboot. They have been exposed in various games this season, most notably vs. West Ham in the restart, where Rudiger et al didn’t match the Hammers’ counter-attacks.
In midfield, they are reasonable, though Kante hasn’t been as outstanding as in his title-winning seasons at Leicester and Chelsea.
Kovacic has done well and Jorginho has improved also. They also have some good youths, such as Gilmour, Mount, and Loftus-Cheek, whom all bring added balance and have potential.
Like us, attack is their strength. Giroud, our old boy no less, has an aerial and on the ball threat. Pulisic brings them great attacking width, and Abraham for a youngster has scored important goals at times. Willian has been linked to us strongly, but then whilst he’s never been prolific in scoring terms, he brings a lot of energy and technical skill, and could be a handful.
We have to use our strengths to match their weaknesses. Lampard would be thinking the same, though he knows in the semi-final that we CAN defend well when needed.
For us though, we can expose their weaknesses via:
Aubameyang’s role in the left has been maligned. This to me is unfair. He only missed out on the Golden Boot to Vardy by one goal, and most of his goals have been central. His pace and movement bring more complexity in our attack, and he is working hard to win back the ball. For me, he is as complete a centre-forward as Kane or Aguero, and we need Auba to perform holistically as he is doing now.
Lampard would know this, and with their defence being slow and open to counters, we need Auba and Pepe or Saka to expose them on the shoulder.
– Pace and through-balls
Whilst Auba, Pepe, and Saka can be effective here, the wing-backs need to be open to spotting them too. Auba’s second goal vs. City was a great assist from Tierney and this would be something that Chelsea would fear.
Moreover, Laca could be effective here in terms of dropping deep, limiting their midfield build-up, and supplying through-balls to his buddy Auba.
Xhaka’s long-range passing is good and he needs to pick out people forward to expose their backline.
– Midfield limitations
We need to press them in midfield and utilise our pace in the attack to get forward. Kante is combative but we need to match him. Kovacic is very technical as is Jorginho and we need to keep them under pressure at all times. Ceballos has brought a great balance between passing and tenacity and he needs to be on it accordingly.
– Wide spaces
Alonso has been underrated generally, and he has been strong for them in recent seasons. We need to watch for his pace and crossing, including nullifying Giroud and Pulisic.
Yes, they are more organised, but they are not invincible and do have flaws. We have the players to expose their flaws, and get in behind and damage them.
Tierney can get crosses in adeptly, and this has to be a tool we utilise well.
The American has done well since joining them, but I would play Tierney here to contain him. Expose him on the outside, and keep up with him at all times.
He would be a threat no doubt, but then not something we cannot surmount.
Given our past associations, as it were, I feel Giroud is the major threat here.
To stop him, we need to essentially win every cross and snuff out balls to his feet.
Luiz has been hot and cold but needs to be hot here to contain him. Giroud arguably has been their best performing player lately, and we should know his game. Arteta should, as he played with him at Arsenal for a few years.
Giroud was at his most ineffective at Arsenal when his supply was cut off. Some called him a lampost, but then this is because at these times we didn’t play to his strengths. If we nullify the wide areas, and also be dogged in the defensive third then we can limit him.
Let’s not forget his trademark near post goal flicks, and to do this we need to be dominant in the wide areas.
Lampard was a top-level player, though in my view wasn’t as good as Gerrard and Scholes as fellow world-class English contemporaries. Lamps scored goals no doubt, but Scholes and Gerrard had more technical ability. And Gerrard won the CL when Liverpool finished fifth and was a major factor in doing this with telling goals en route and an influential final performance in Istanbul.
Though as a manager, Lampard has done well at Chelsea, and has proven that he can be tactical too. We need to watch for his game-management, and Arteta needs to anticipate what he will do.
He may employ a matched formation, though we need to do watch for our game as much and keep quiet their own strengths.
As for us:
We need elite concentration throughout. We had this vs. City and have shown this in other games too this season.
They will be thinking that we’re error-prone, but also we need to capitalise on their errors. If they slip defensively, then we need to pounce and show alertness all over the pitch.
We need to bring runners to their final third, as whilst Kante can trackback well, their other midfielders cannot.
Overall, we need to be combative in the midfield, and them give the ball to our fast attackers to expose them. They may try and play a high line to catch us offside but this shows that we need to be on point and watch for any errors in their shape and positioning.
– Arteta game-management
Arteta is literally in his first-ever managerial job and is learning as he goes.
But one flaw is his game-management. I feel some recent defeats have been due to this, and he needs to be on point here. Any change that Chelsea makes he needs to match and anticipate. He also needs to correct when required. At Tottenham, we had ample possession and had he made changes earlier we could have won that game. The Villa defeat was similar, and it’s imperative that he acts on tap as it were in this case.
If so, then he could do a madness, in getting a major trophy in literally just over half a year at the club.
So as shown here, I’d want us to be compact off the ball, with Auba and Saka utilising their pace to expose their defence.
Sokratis hasn’t featured much, but I feel we may need him here for his combativeness to combat Giroud.
Bellerin has been OK this season at best, but I feel Ainsley is a better defensive prospect vs Alonso and Pulisic.
Arsenal 2-1 Chelsea
We are underdogs based on league form, but I feel we have the players and can execute the system to get the win and a record 14th FA Cup. 1991 is a long time, and certainly know better!!
MarbleHallsTV is an Arsenal social media account on Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. Been a Gooner since the 90s, inspired by Ian Wright, then Bergkamp, Vieira, Henry, Pires, Campbell, Rosicky, Koscielny, Ozil and Sanchez. A digital marketer/entrpreneur by profession, born in UK living in the Americas now.