Arsenal and Chelsea has finally meet after a long and arduous season, London rivals Arsenal and Chelsea will contest one of the most prestigious items of silverware in the world game on Saturday when they meet in the 139th final of the oldest football tournament on the planet.
These two have enjoyed mixed fortunes in the Premier League, with the Blues ending their maiden campaign under rookie coach Frank Lampard with qualification for the Champions League, thereby achieving their minimum target.
For the Gunners, things have been more difficult – Unai Emery was dismissed after his underwhelming reign, although there have been promising shoots emerging under his successor Mikel Arteta.
How important would it be for either of these two young managers to pick up the first managerial honours of their nascent coaching careers with a victory this weekend?
There’s history, of course, between these two near neighbours, and Saturday’s showpiece has all the makings of a humdinger.
The match takes place behind closed doors at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, August 1 at 17:30 BST.
The most notable absentee for the final appears likely to be Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante, who is a major doubt as he continues his return from a thigh injury.
Considering the scale of the occasion, don’t expect Kante to be risked.
It remains to be seen whether Willian will be fit in time after missing out on Chelsea’s UCL-clinching victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers with injury, while youngster Billy Gilmour is rehabbing following knee surgery.
Arsenal will definitely be missing four players due to injury, with Pablo Mari, Calum Chambers, Shkodran Mustafi and Gabriel Martinelli all absent.
Matteo Guendouzi and Mesut Ozil are fit, but may not feature for off-field reasons, while goalkeeper Bernd Leno’s recovery is unlikely to come in time for the final.
Road to the final
Both of these two have taken some major scalps en route to the final.
For Chelsea, the fifth round threw up a meeting with Premier League champions Liverpool, with Lampard’s side getting over the line with a 2-0 victory.
They also saw off Manchester United in a surprisingly one-sided semi-final as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side were thoroughly outclassed.
Nottingham Forest, Hull City and Leicester City were also dumped out of the competition by the Pensioners.
Arsenal’s greatest achievement also came in the semi-final, as they put out Manchester City 2-0 in the best result of Arteta’s time at the club.
Before that final four showdown, Leeds United, Bournemouth, Portsmouth and Sheffield United had all been eliminated by the North Londoners.
Key Facts & Stats
They may be at an early stage of their development under Arteta, but Arsenal have some history in this competition, having featured in 20 previous finals—winning 13.
Chelsea are no newbies either; this will be their 14th final appearance—half of which have come in the last 13 years—and they’ve won seven of their last nine.
The only team to have beaten them in the final during that period? Arsenal…
Intriguingly, while both of these managers are managerial rookies, they’ve each enjoyed success in this competition as players.
Lampard won the cup four times with Chelsea—losing one other final—while Arteta was a champion with Arsenal in 2014.
If the Spaniard wins on Saturday, he will become the first person to win the cup with Arsenal as a captain and a manager.
Arsenal’s semi-final victory over Manchester City was an outstanding team performance, and the presence of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang gives them a goalscoring threat capable of winning any match in an instant.
However, the Gunners remain inexperienced in some key areas, while defensive problems persist, and recent defeats by Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa should serve as reminders of their vulnerability.
Chelsea too aren’t yet the complete package, and their defence is also vulnerable—they conceded eight goals in back-to-back away games against Sheffield United and Liverpool—although they will be emboldened by their Premier League run-in.
With Olivier Giroud in excellent form, and the likes of Mateo Kovacic, Mason Mount and Christian Pulisic a talented supporting cast, Lampard’s Blues appear to have the edge.