STAR PREVIEW Sat: The FA Cup Final

Arsenal v Chelsea
FA Cup Final
17:30 BBC One / BT Sport 1 / BBC iPlayer / BT Sport Extra 1 / BT Sport Ultimate

HEAD TO HEAD RECORD
(Maximum 10 matches, since 2010)
JAN 2020 PREMIER LEAGUE Chelsea 2-2 Arsenal
DEC 2019 PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea
MAY 2019 EUROPA LEAGUE FINAL Chelsea 4-1 Arsenal
JAN 2019 PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal 2-0 Chelsea
AUG 2018 PREMIER LEAGUE Chelsea 3-2 Arsenal
JAN 2018 LEAGUE CUP Arsenal 2-1 Chelsea
JAN 2018 LEAGUE CUP Chelsea 0-0 Arsenal
JAN 2018 PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal 2-2 Chelsea
SEP 2017 PREMIER LEAGUE Chelsea 0-0 Arsenal
AUG 2017 COMMUINITY SHIELD Chelsea 1-1 Arsenal
MAY 2017 FA CUP Arsenal 2-1 Chelsea

Past FA Cup Final Winners
2008–09 FA Cup final: Chelsea (won 2–1 against Everton)
2009–10 FA Cup final: Chelsea (won 1–0 against Portsmouth)
2010–11 FA Cup final: Manchester City (won 1–0 against Stoke City)
2011–12 FA Cup final: Chelsea (won 2–1 against Liverpool)
2012–13 FA Cup final: Wigan Athletic (won 1–0 against Manchester City)
2013–14 FA Cup final: Arsenal (won 3–2 against Hull City)
2014–15 FA Cup final: Arsenal (won 4–0 against Aston Villa)
2015–16 FA Cup final: Manchester United (won 2–1 against Crystal Palace)
2016-17 FA Cup final: Arsenal (won 2-1 against Chelsea)
2018-19 FA Cup final: Chelsea (won 1-0 against Manchester United)
2019-20 FA Cup final: Manchester City (won 6-0 against Watford)


This year’s FA Cup final may be behind closed doors – a shame for an all London affair – but there will be no lack of fire between the two sides, and Chelsea can put the cap on their season in style with victory over Arsenal.

Frank Lampard’s first season at the club has been an eventful one but the Blues have finished it really strongly, and on what we’ve seen he has every chance of sealing his near-term future with a trophy as well as Champions League football.

The enforced absence of lockdown has benefitted the Blues hugely, with Lampard’s young side getting a much needed rest that saw the return to action of Christian Pulisic and Willian amongst others.

Pulisic has returned with inspired form since the restart (four goals and five assists in the Premier League) arguably becoming the Blues’ key asset in the process, and his form has seen others improve in kind too – Willian has had his best Chelsea spell for some time, with four goals and four assists since the restart in all competitions.

Finding the goals upfront ought not to be a problem next season with Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner and maybe Kai Havertz all coming to Stamford Bridge, but they still carry a big threat here and now with Olivier Giroud having hit a red hot patch of form with seven goals in 10 post lockdown games. Another young talent in Mason Mount has stepped up with a big goal in the semi-final against Manchester United and a virtuoso performance against Wolves on the last day of the Premier League which should give him confidence.

The worry is their defence – and especially misfiring keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga if he’s chosen to play, an Achilles heel which will keep Arsenal in with a chance, but they should fancy themselves in a shootout.

Arsenal – also taking big forward steps under Mikel Arteta – are hugely respected here after a brilliant semi-final victory against Manchester City, when they managed to combat the infamous Guardiola press with an aggressive strategy of their own. On that day Arteta showed no lack of nous by bolstering the back three that’s been so effective with the addition of Ainsley Maitland-Niles whilst Granit Xhaka put in a monster midfield shift to aid the pressing of Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang and Nicolas Pepe, which led to some choice opportunities, including Aubameyang’s two goals.

Arsenal may see more of the ball today – and chances should be coming against this Chelsea side – but they can struggle to create too. After their City win, they were beaten 1-0 by Aston Villa without a shot on target and much rests upon Dani Ceballos to unlock well-set defenses.

Arsenal are also not bulletproof defensively. Against City they held out brilliantly – although the holders had plenty of decent chances – but since the restart they’ve only kept three clean sheets, one of them coming against a Norwich side that finished bottom of the Premier League table.

Chelsea concede their fair share of goals too, but Arsenal were very lucky to concede only one goal against Liverpool and are in debt to Emiliano Martínez for his brilliant performances in goal over the past few weeks.

According to data from Infogol, they have the fifth worst defensive record since the restart, and that includes the period where they’d been improved defensively thanks to a three at the back formation. Their team against Watford was a changed one where Arteta started with a back four but it was unnerving that the Hornets really ought to have won (4.42 xG compared to 2.16 for Arsenal) and David Luiz’s performance in that game was particularly worrying.

We can expect a more reserved performance here, but that hasn’t prevented sides getting quality chances against the Gunners, and Chelsea – who finished ten points and four places above Arsenal in the Premier League – have the quality to take the FA Cup.

Specials

It would be no surprise if this final went in a wild direction given the teams involved, but perhaps it’s worth noting that previous FA Cup finals have also tended to be tight affairs – the only two since 2003-04 to be won by more than one goal (if at all) was Arsenal’s 4-0 romp against Aston Villa, and Manchester City’s 6-0 thumping of Watford last season.

There’s less than that between Arsenal and Chelsea, so the 14/5 on Chelsea to win by a single goal or the 13/10 on the game being won by one goal (no matter which side does it) could appeal. There might be an even better value bet when taking that into account however, as the 2-1 Chelsea at 15/2 could be a lively runner – both teams have scored in five of the last six meetings.

A couple of players also make appeal in the man of the match betting. We’ve talked a good deal about Christian Pulisic and Willian in the general preview, but a look through Chelsea’s recent wins show that two players have excelled in man of the match awards (stats taken from BBC). Mason Mount (Aston Villa, Watford, Wolves) and Olivier Giroud (Norwich, Manchester United) have taken five man of the match awards between them and 6 and 7/1 about the pair is a tempting dutch in the specials market.

Giroud has been an essential target man for Chelsea in tight spots, especially against deeper lying defenses and from set-pieces, and Mount should have benefitted from his virtuoso performance against Wolves.

For Arsenal the choice is simple – this is a fine way to get Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang onside. Aubameyang, the biggest threat by a good distance in the Arsenal side, will be crucial to any attacking strategy the Gunners have and can also put in a quality defensive shift as shown by his pressing against Manchester City too.

RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)
BACK Chelsea within 90 minutes 3 pts at 21/20 with starsports.bet
BACK Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal 1 pt at 15/2 with starsports.bet
BACK Mason Mount Man Of The Match 1 pt at 6/1 with starsports.bet
BACK Olivier Giroud Man Of The Match 1 pt at 7/1 with starsports.bet
BACK Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang Man Of The Match 1 pt at 6/1 with starsports.bet


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