In their 21st FA Cup final, Arsenal will take on London rivals Chelsea in front of an empty Wembley Stadium. The Gunners have lifted the trophy more times than anyone else in history and will look to secure a record 14th FA Cup on Saturday night. To do that they must defeat a Chelsea side that has exceeded all expectation this season. Frank Lampard’s men have secured a top 4 finish despite losing their best player whilst enduring a transfer ban.
For both of these new managers, this match offers an opportunity to win silverware for the first time. One team will go into the summer with a winning feeling while the other will be left to reflect on what could have been. If Arsenal want to be on the winning side, they must expose several of Chelsea’s weaknesses.
Here’s how Arsenal can beat Chelsea in the FA Cup final.
In behind Marcos Alonso
It’s widely expected that Chelsea will line-up in a 3-4-3 to combat Arsenal’s similar system. Much of the Blues attacking play relies on the wing-backs spamming in crosses for Olivier Giroud to run onto. It’s therefore imperative that Arsenal’s wing-backs stop the source of these crosses as it will nullify the Blues main source of chance creation. Going the other way, due to Chelsea’s reliance on their wing-backs, Alonso and Reece James are often stationed high up the pitch, leaving space in behind.
Out of the two, Alonso is one that has more tendency to completely abandon his defensive duties in favour of final third runs. As for James, despite his age, he possesses positional intelligence has made him less of a liability in the wing-back role. Nicolas Pepe must position himself as wide as possible to exploit the space in behind the wayward Alonso. This would also allow the Ivorian to find himself 1v1 with Chelsea’s worst centre-back, Antonio Rüdiger.
Press Chelsea’s back three
This summer the Blues will be welcoming the likes of Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech and possibly Kai Havertz to the Bridge. This focus on attacking talent is frightening to rival fans but many Chelsea fans know their main weaknesses lie in defence. It’s hard to label any of their centre-backs as reliable, with all of them showing consistent moments of ill-discipline. Kurt Zouma is perhaps the best of the bunch in terms of aerial dominance but his ability on the ball is shocking. Antonio Rüdiger doesn’t particularly fill Frank with confidence in possession either.
If both teams do play a 3-4-3, it will mean each man will be matched up, meaning Arsenal’s front three could press Chelsea’s back three with much ease. Rüdiger & Zouma are very error-prone and having limited time and space on the ball could lead to some promising turnovers in the final third for Arsenal. Arsenal’s midfield duo should also make sure that passing lanes to Jorginho or Matteo Kovačić are blocked off, thus leaving the centre-backs with limited options. If Arsenal execute a tenacious counter-press in Chelsea’s half, they will almost certainly be FA Cup winners.