Chelsea take on Arsenal in an eagerly-awaited FA Cup final on Saturday evening, in a match which takes on huge importance for both sides. For Chelsea it’s a chance to complete a domestic double and establish their place at the pinnacle of English football, and for Arsenal a chance to salvage a season in which they’ve failed to qualify for the Champions League, let alone win a trophy of any kind.
Antonio Conte has brought an air of enthusiasm to Chelsea, and after a season without European football, Blues fans are celebrating another Premier League title and qualification for next season’s Champions League. The FA Cup would cap off a fine season, and make them the first team to win the double since their side of 2009/10.
Arsenal have had a gloomy season, with speculation about the future of manager Arsene Wenger hanging over the Emirates club. The Gunners boss says he “does not know” whether this match at Wembley will be his last in charge of the team, but failure to finish in the top four combined with dissent from the fans could see his reign come to an end.
Chelsea had wrapped up the league with two games to spare after a 1-0 win at West Brom back on the 12th of April. The Blues still won the final two games, 4-3 against Watford and 5-1 against Sunderland, to finish the season with 93 points – seven ahead of nearest challengers Spurs. They’ve won their last seven games on the trot, and beat Arsenal 3-1 when the teams met at Stamford Bridge back in February.
Arsenal managed to claw their way back into Champions League contention during the dying embers of the Premier League season, but it proved to be too little to late. Despite winning their last five games on the spin, the Gunners finished 5th – a point behind fourth-placed Liverpool. They’ve also been victorious against Chelsea this season, winning 3-0 at the Emirates in September last year.
Laurent Koscielny was sent off in the final day 3-1 win over Everton and will be sorely missed in the Arsenal defence at Wembley. Fellow centre-back Gabriel is also an injury doubt, along with Mustafi and Gibbs. Otherwise Arsene Wenger has a full squad to choose from. Opposite number Antonio Conte has no injury concerns to contend with, and will be able to field a full-strength side for the game.
The first bet recommended is both teams to score at -137 with Paddy Power.
Italian manager Conte came to England with a reputation for a mean defensive record, but that hasn’t always been the case this season. The Blues have conceded in six of their last ten matches in the Premier League, and Arsenal have the attacking class to cause problems to anyone. The likes of Sanchez and Ozil can unpick even the tightest of defences, and Wenger will know his side will need to score goals. The Gunners conceded more goals than anyone in the top six over the course of the season, and with their defensive lynch pin Koscielny ruled out and doubts about other defenders, a clean sheet looks unlikely at Wembley.
Arsenal have scored in 8 of their last 10 games, while Chelsea have scored in 9 of their last 10.
Two of the last three FA Cup finals have gone to extra time, and it’s always a strong possibility in Wembley finals. Manchester United got the better of Crystal Palace in last season’s FA Cup courtesy of an extra time winner, and it was Arsenal two year prior who needed the extra 30 minutes to defeat Hull 3-1.
Plenty of people will be happy to lump on Chelsea to win the game, but Arsenal are good enough to make it difficult for them. Might the Gunners have more hunger as they look to salvage something from a disappointing season? Will Chelsea’s title celebrations have taken the competitive edge away from the players? These questions remain to be answered, but at decent odds it’s worth a punt on Arsenal taking Chelsea to extra time.
Chelsea v Arsenal – Both teams to score
Saturday 27th May, 17:30 GMT
Chelsea to win in extra time
Saturday 27th May, 17:30 GMT