Saturday, May 27, 2017

Arsenal VS Chelsea : English FA Cup FINAL Preview

The Double is on for Antonio Conte and it is clear Chelsea must be considered favourites, given the season they have had. Arsène Wenger is unconcerned. He knows the underdog can have its day and he referenced the 2005 FA Cup final, when his Arsenal team “had no players available” but somehow beat Manchester United. It could be Diego Costa’s last game in Chelsea colours but probably will not be Wenger’s last at Arsenal

Despite ending their Premier League campaign with seven victories from eight matches ahead of another appearance in the FA Cup final, there is a lingering feeling at the Emirates Stadium that the uncertainty over Arsene Wenger and the ownership battle between Stan Kroenke and Alisher Usmnaov will only lead to the club falling behind their rivals.

Wenger could become the first manager in english football history to win seven FA cups, eliminating a bit of the scar that comes with Arsenal failing to qualify for the Champions League for the first time since 1998. But given the injuries to their three first-choice centre-backs, a heavy defeat will only lead to more despair for their supporters.
Losing Laurent Koscielny to suspension came as a huge blow to their chances of causing an upset against the league champions, but the absence of Gabriel Paulista will also be felt by Wenger. Shkodran Mustafi still has a chance of featuring as he continues to recover from concussion, but Wenger may decide that it is a risk not worth taking.
That would leave Per Mertesacker to take his place alongside Rob Holding in defence and although it is not the worst combination on paper, the tall German has only played 37 minutes of football all season and while Chelsea's attack are in sublime form, he could get exposed. His selection is not a given but if Kieran Gibbs is out injured as well, it leaves Wenger with very little choice.

Further forward, his players are coming good at the right time. Alexis Sanchez continues to contribute on a game-by-game basis, but Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud have also shown that they still have parts to play in this Gunners side, despite the speculation regarding their future.
Arsenal have been afforded a mixed route to the final with tough ties against Southampton and Manchester City being cancelled out by successive matches against non-league Sutton United and Lincoln City, but while the importance of this competition is sometimes played down, there is no doubting that the result could be pivotal ahead of the decisions which need to be made in the coming days.
A win may lead to a few more supporters accepting that Wenger remaining in the dugout is not as bad as previously perceived, but a defeat - to coincide with a fifth-place finish in the top flight - will only increase hostility as fans grow more concerned about their future both on and off the pitch.

Antonio Conte on the other hand, has used this year's competition has an opportunity to give some minutes to members of his squad who have been forced to remain on the sidelines for much of their league campaign, but expect a change of mindset when it comes to deciding on his starting lineup for the showdown at Wembley.
The Italian has shown that he can be sentimental - his use of  John Terry in Chelsea's final two Premier League matches has shown that - but Conte is a leader who knows when the time is right to be ruthless and there are unlikely to be any alterations from the team he has selected for many of their victories throughout the season.
He still has a couple of selection dilemmas to contend with regarding the centre of his midfield and who features in his front three alongside Eden Hazard, but Conte is aware of the magnitude of achieving a domestic double in his first season in English football.
Arsenal will hope to throw a spanner in the works, despite their injury problems, but for Conte, it is about going out there and winning a football match with minimal fuss and given the number of goals they have scored from all areas of the pitch, is anyone going to back against them?
His suggestion that Arsenal are favourites for this match is pure kidology from a man who knows that he has a system in place which is as efficient as it is effective, and players at his disposal who are of better quality than their opponents in all areas of the pitch.
Blues boss Antonio Conte may have to choose between winger Willian - who has started every FA Cup game this season - and Pedro, who has usually been preferred in league matches.
It also remains to be seen whether Conte picks ex-Arsenal star Cesc Fabregas in midfield or deploys the more defensive-minded Nemanja Matic.
The form of Diego Costa will be of small concern to Conte with his top goalscorer having under-performed during the second half of the campaign, but he may have found a replacement in Michy Batshuayi who has scored four goals in his last 126 minutes on the pitch.

Whoever Conte opts for, he heads into this match in the knowledge that his team have scored 106 goals in 45 matches in all competitions since his arrival and he will be confident that his side can deliver more than that ratio of 2.35 goals per game during their final match before the summer.

Kick-off Saturday 5.30pm
Venue Wembley Stadium
Head-to-head Arsenal 73 Chelsea 62 Draws 54

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger: "It will not be my last match because whatever happens I will stay in football.
"Would it be a nice farewell? No, what I want is to win the next game. I love to win and I love to do well for my club. I want to win the cup for my club.
"It's not about me, it's about us winning the trophy and giving everything to achieve it."

Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte on Arsene Wenger: "When you stay for a long time at the same team - we're talking about a great team, not a small team - we must consider him like one of the best managers in history. He won a lot.
"When you stay a lot for a long time in the same team, someone can forget this. But Arsene Wenger is, for sure, a really good manager for me.
"For sure, I don't [believe] that today will be the last game for Arsene. I think he deserves to work with Arsenal because he showed, in these 20 years, he is a good manager. He did a good job. Only this season they missed out on the Champions League."

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