As Arsenal and Chelsea prepare for Saturday’s FA Cup final, we break down every battle, both tactical and individual, between the two sides to try and find a winner.
This FA Cup Final is going to be a holy hallelujah of a scrap. A young and unpredictable Arsenal side, smarting from their worst finish in 25 years and looking to get revenge for their 4-1 drubbing in Baku, comes up against a young and unpredictable Chelsea who are flying high with the renewal of Champions League football, despite a number of Achilles heels that continue to bog down their progress. It’s going to be a corker.
Despite the gap in the table, both sides are in very similar runs of form and success, ranking fourth and seventh since the restart. Both teams have lost in matches they shouldn’t — Brighton and West Ham — and won matches as an underdog — Manchester City, for both, and Liverpool. It’s an intriguing matchup. With that in mind, we break down the individual and tactical battles that will take place on Saturday afternoon.
Both sides will likely line up in a 3-4-3 formation. Frank Lampard’s side will want to dominate possession, and Arsenal may implement a similarly counter-attacking style as against Manchester City and Liverpool. It’s a long-standing tale, but an important one nonetheless.
Chelsea will likely look to continue the journey they started against Wolves, playing a 3-4-3 with some serious danger out wide. Speedy winger Christian Pulisic and a free-flowing Mason Mount will likely cause the Gunners backline no end of troubles. Both are in a stunning run of form and will come out guns blazing.
Furthermore, the wing-back options of Reece James and Marcos Alonso will likely be used to overload the wings and cause issues off of crosses. They can also to drift inside to challenge the midfield and play balls into the channels. This dual-threat will need watching, and Arsenal’s wingers will have to track back in order to cover that danger.
As learned from previous London Derby’s, Jorginho is the danger man in the midfield, and closing him down will have to be a part of Arteta’s tactical setup. However, he’ll likely do so without sacrificing the virtual wall of meat that is Dani Ceballos and Granit Xhaka, who have been excellent screens for the back five.
Expect Alexandre Lacazette to play a very similar role to match against Manchester City, where he effectively piggybacked Ilkay Gundogan until the German was subbed for a marginally more effective Rodri. That change will also allow Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Nicolas Pepe to push higher and cut inside, making room for overlapping wing-backs.
That system will allow Arsenal’s speed and decisiveness on the counter to overwhelm an athletic but error-prone Chelsea backline. If Mikel Arteta does attempt to control possession in the game, expect a cagey affair where the chances Chelsea convert (or don’t) will make the ultimate difference. The Blues are excellent on the counter.
Set-pieces will also be key for both teams. Arsenal struggle to defend them and Chelsea have a glut of tall players and dead-ball wizards. It is a potent offensive combination, and one the Gunners must be wary of.
However, that knife cuts both ways. As of the end of June, Chelsea are the second-worst team in Europe at defending corners. and although Arsenal’s aerial presence is lacking, the Gunners should look for David Luiz and Rob Holding in the middle as it’s likely they’ll be able to find space more easily than they would against other teams.