“Who is it this week?” – FA Cup Final Preview

It’s finally here guys! Welcome to the FA Cup Final edition of WIITW!

Here’s my semi-final preview from last month’s 2-1 win over Man City.

At 5:30pm on Saturday, we play Chelsea in the FA Cup Final.

The Managers

Arsenal

  • Here’s AW’s press conference ahead of the Final.
  • On making FA Cup history: “I just want to win the Cup. The team has addressed the situation on the sporting side and that would be a good crowning of the last two months. The players really want to win something. If I have some benefit on top of that too, it’s OK.”
  • On thinking about Arsenal being underdogs: “Not much because the pressure was high, especially against Hull, because we had not won the FA Cup for a while. We are not favourites, it is quite even. Chelsea are maybe ahead but it is similar to the semi-final against Man City.”
  • On matching Fergie’s 26 years in management: “I don’t think I will match him on that front. But he did extremely well and what he did in 26 years is absolutely exceptional. The average life expectancy of a manager is 18 months. Our situation is quite unusual. I cannot answer on doing 22, 23 years.”

Chelsea

  • Antonio Conte will lead Chelsea out at Wembley on Saturday, looking to become the fifth Italian manager to win the famous trophy. He’s never won a domestic Cup as a manager, but did win the Coppa Italia as a Juventus player in 1995.
  • One of his Juve teammates in the ’95 Coppa Italia Final was Gianluca Vialli. In 2000, Vialli was the first Italian boss to win the FA Cup when his Chelsea team beat Aston Villa. The goalscorer for Chelsea? Roberto Di Matteo – another Italian who also managed Chelsea to an FA Cup win in 2012.
  • A Chelsea win would also make them Double winners. The Blues have won the Double (League and FA Cup) just once before – in 2009-10. Arsenal and Man United are the only teams to have done it more than once. They have achieved the Double three times each. Arsenal are the only team to have done it before and after the introduction of the Premier League. To give you an idea of just how big, and rare, an achievement this is, it would be just the 12th time in the history of English Football (since 1888) than a team has won the Double if Chelsea were to prevail on Saturday.

Team News

Arsenal

  • The Gunners will definitely be without Laurent Koscielny for the Final. The Frenchman was sent off against Everton last Sunday and, following an unsuccessful appeal, will serve a three-match ban.
  • Gabriel Paulista is also out. He went off injured in the final game of the season. Wenger said today that the Brazilian is expected to miss the next 6-8 weeks. “We had a scare about his cruciate but it’s medical. He avoids surgery.”
  • Alexis Sanchez should be OK for the Final. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is “in contention” according to Wenger, while Shkodran Mustafi is “still sick and hasn’t trained yet”.

Chelsea

  • The Champions have pretty much a fully fit squad to choose from. They have no injuries or suspensions to first-team players ahead of the Final.
  • John Terry most likely won’t play. He came off in the 26th minute against Sunderland last week, his final game at Stamford Bridge as a Chelsea player.
  • Eden Hazard and Diego Costa both came off with time to spare in that game with Sunderland, so they’ll be well rested ahead of the match.

Route to the Final

Arsenal 

Chelsea

  • Antonio Conte’s side have gotten through the FA Cup without much trouble this season. Decent wins over Peterborough and Brentford at Stamford Bridge were followed by a comfortable 2-0 victory at Wolves. They then faced two of the Premier League’s top six to secure a Final place – beating Man United at home and Spurs, in a cracking game, at Wembley. They scored 15 goals and conceded three in their Cup run. Pedro, Willian and Batshuayi have scored three times each in the FA Cup.
  • 3rd Round: Chelsea 4-1 Peterborough
  • 4th Round: Chelsea 4-0 Brentford
  • 5th Round: Wolves 0-2 Chelsea
  • Quarter-Final: Chelsea 1-0 Man United
  • Semi-Final: Chelsea 4-2 Spurs

Head-to-Head

  • Including replays, Arsenal and Chelsea have faced each other 19 times in the FA Cup. The Gunners have eight wins to Chelsea’s five.
  • Their first Cup meeting was at Stamford Bridge in 1915. Chelsea won 1-0 in the 2nd round tie. The Blues went on the the Final that season, losing 3-0 to Sheffield United.
  • They didn’t meet again until the 3rd round in 1930. Arsenal won it 2-0 at Highbury, en route to lifting the Cup for the first time. It would be 20 years (six matches) before Arsenal beat Chelsea in an FA Cup clash again.
  • In 1947, the two sides needed three games to settle things. After a 1-1 at the Bridge, and another at Highbury, the tie was decided when Chelsea beat Arsenal 2-0 at White Hart Lane.
  • Arsenal and Chelsea met in the semi-final stage in 1950 and 1952. A replay was required on both occasions and Arsenal advanced to the Final on both occasions. All four games were played at White Hart Lane.
  • When they met in the 1973 quarter-final, Arsenal again prevailed after a replay. The Gunners eventually winning 2-1 at Highbury.
  • It was almost 30 years before Arsenal and Chelsea met in the FA Cup again but they went on to play each other at some stage of the Cup for four seasons in a row – 2001 to 2004. Arsenal were victorious each time.
  • The Gunners won a 5th round tie at Highbury in 2001, a year before beating Chelsea in the Final in Cardiff.
  • In 2003, the sides needed a replay at Stamford Bridge. Arsenal won it 3-1 (including an own goal from John Terry) and advanced to the last four. A year later, we were all introduced to Jose Antonio Reyes in another FA Cup clash with Chelsea at Highbury (again, featuring John Terry smacking into the net).
  • Their most recent FA Cup encounter was in the 2009 semi-final. Theo Walcott had put Arsenal ahead before goals from Florent Malouda and Didier Drogba (of course it was Drogba…) won it for Chelsea. They went on to beat Everton in the Final.

The 2002 FA Cup Final

  • 15 years ago, football in England was quite different from how we know it today. Bournemouth were relegated to the 4th tier that season, to join Swansea and Hull. The likes of Watford, Crystal Palace and Portsmouth were all mid-table First Division (Championship) teams while Man City had just won the First Division title. Ipswich Town, Derby County and Leicester City were all relegated from the Premier League. Aston Villa spent £4 million on the 21-year old, 6’7” Peter Crouch, while Arsenal splashed about £150,000 on a young Ivorian defender. David Moyes took over at Everton, while Alex Ferguson postponed his retirement by “at least three more seasons”. Newcastle, Leeds and Blackburn all qualified for Europe. Chelsea finished 6th. Arsenal won the Double.
  • Just as it is in 2017, Arsenal and Chelsea met in the FA Cup Final fifteen years ago. The Final itself was played before the end of the Premier League season. Arsenal had two games to go in the League and would go on to wrap up the Title at Old Trafford in their penultimate match. The Gunners route to the Final included a win over FA Cup holders Liverpool. Chelsea had to see off fellow Londoners West Ham, Spurs and Fulham to make it to the showpiece event.
  • Arsenal were unbeaten domestically since December 2001 and had Sol Campbell back from injury. The Chelsea line-up included former Gunners midfielder Emmanuel Petit and their 22-year old, £11 million acquisition from West Ham, Frank Lampard.
  • Due to travel chaos surrounding both semi-finals that season, extra steps were taken to ensure a smooth journey for both sets of fans. This included both clubs chartering six flights to bring supporters directly to Cardiff. BBC spent over a million pounds promoting the Final, including a pre-match sketch from Ricky Gervais as David Brent.
  • The match itself was a tight affair. Chelsea certainly had their chances and David Seaman was tested more than enough. Arsenal opened the scoring through the Romford Pele himself (“It’s alright. It’s only Ray Parlour…”) with about 20 minutes left. Freddie Ljungberg added a second. Both goals were superb curlers from outside the box. Arsenal won it 2-0 at the Millennium Stadium.
  • It was one of the final games for both Lee Dixon and Tony Adams in their careers. Adams shared the honour of lifting the Cup with Patrick Vieira, the vice captain.

That’s Interesting

  • This Saturday will be the 20th FA Cup Final appearance for Arsenal – a competition record. Man United are second with 19 appearances. Chelsea will be playing in their 12th Final.
  • Arsenal are also going for a record 13th FA Cup triumph, while Arsene Wenger will become the most successful manager in FA Cup history if he secures a 7th win.
  • The Gunners have won each of their last five FA Cup Finals. Arsenal have won six out of seven Finals under Wenger. The only defeat was to Liverpool in 2001.
  • Chelsea have played in 11 Cup Finals, winning seven. They’ve also won each of their last four Finals. Their last defeat in an FA Cup Final was against Arsenal in 2002.
  • The FA Cup Final was moved to the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff for six years during the redevelopment of Wembley. Arsenal played in four of the six Cardiff Finals – winning three!
  • Chelsea played in the last Cup Final at the old Wembley and the first Final at the new Wembley. They won them both. This is their fifth Final appearance since Wembley reopened in 2007.
  • Chelsea’s first FA Cup win in 1970 was the last one to be decided outside of Wembley (apart from the six years in Cardiff). Having played out a draw against Leeds at Wembley, the Final went to a replay. But the pitch was in such poor condition after the original tie that the FA decided to move the replay to Old Trafford. Chelsea won it 2-1 after extra-time.
  • Stamford Bridge hosted the last three FA Cup Finals before Wembley was opened in 1922. The last Final at the Bridge was won by Huddersfield. Their manager? The man who would go on to become a legendary Arsenal boss and revolutionise the game in England – Herbert Chapman.
  • Only two English managers have won the FA Cup since 1995 (Joe Royle with Everton and Harry Redknapp with Portsmouth). The last Englishman to win the Cup with Arsenal was Bertie Mee in 1971. Dave Sexton is the only English manager to lead Chelsea to FA Cup glory. Sexton worked at Arsenal as a first-team coach for a year under Bertie Mee before leaving to become Chelsea manager in 1967.
  • The 1993 FA Cup Final was the last one to be decided by a replay. From 1999, the Final was settled on the day via extra-time and penalties. Arsenal beat Sheffield Wednesday in the ’93 Final. It was moments away from becoming the first Cup Final to go to penalties before Andy Linighan got the winner in the 119th minute.
  • 12 years later, Arsenal did play in the first FA Cup Final to be decided on penalties. After a goalless 120 minutes against Man United, the Gunners won it 5-4 on spot-kicks. Jens Lehmann with the decisive save from a Paul Scholes penalty. The 2006 Final between Liverpool and West Ham is the only other one that needed penalties to find a winner.
  • Arsenal won the 2015 Cup Final by thumping Aston Villa 4-0 at Wembley. That was the biggest winning margin in the Final since Man United beat Chelsea by the same scoreline in 1993.
  • In the Wenger era, Arsenal and Chelsea have dominated the FA Cup – six wins and one runner-up medal a piece. Ashley Cole is the most successful player in the history of the Cup. He won seven FA Cups – three with Arsenal and four with Chelsea.

How about some goals?

  • The Gunners have had some memorable moments in the FA Cup Final. Here’s just a select few:
  • 1979: Arsenal 3-2 Man United – Widely regarded as one of the best ever FA Cup Finals. Arsenal were 2-0 up at half-time before a late fightback from United levelled things up. It looked as though Arsenal had thrown it away and the teams were headed for extra-time, before Alan Sunderland scored a last-minute winner.
  • 1971: Liverpool 1-2 Arsenal (aet) – The Gunners came from behind to win another classic Final at Wembley. It was 0-0 after 90 minutes before Steve Heighway put Liverpool ahead at the beginning of extra-time. Arsenal were level through substitute Eddie Kelly. The goal was initially given to George Graham but replays later credited Kelly with the vital touch – he became the first ever sub to score in an FA Cup Final. Charlie George won it with less than 10 minutes to go, securing the first Double in the club’s history. His celebration is one of the most iconic FA Cup moments.
  • 1993: Arsenal 2-1 Sheffield Wednesday (aet) – The last FA Cup to be decided in a replay. Andy Linighan scored a late, late winner for the Arsenal. The Gunners won the League Cup against the same opposition a few weeks earlier. This game was the last that David O’Leary played for Arsenal. After 20 years and 722 games for the club, he left for Leeds that summer. His testimonial was actually played between the original tie and the replay against Wednesday.
  • 1997: Arsenal 2-0 Newcastle – The Gunners beat Newcastle 2-0 to clinch a League and Cup Double for the first time under Arsene Wenger. Overmars and Anelka got the goals. Newcastle made it to the Final a year later but lost by the same scoreline to Man United.
  • 2014: Arsenal 3-2 Hull City (aet) – Maybe not the biggest opponents we’ve ever faced in a Cup Final but it was certainly one of the biggest FA Cup wins in Arsenal’s history. It ended a nine-year trophy drought, lifting an immense weight off the shoulders of the manager. We did it the hard way, but an extra-time winner from Aaron Ramsey made it a day to remember for Gooners all over the world.

And that’s that…

So there it is – everything you needed to know ahead of the 2017 FA Cup Final. Kick off is at 5:30pm on Saturday. There’s so much riding on this game – a win will be a record 13th FA Cup triumph for Arsenal, a record 7th for Arsene Wenger and it would provide a much needed success at the end of a poor season. A Chelsea win and they secure the Double for just the second time in their history, joining an elite club to have achieved the Double more than once and almost certainly ensuring a place in the history books for players and manager alike. It’s a huge one for both teams.

As I’ve stated before the semi-final win over City, I’m a firm believer in form going out the window for a Cup game – a Cup final especially. It’s a neutral venue, a massive occasion and it’s not going to be as straightforward as one might think. We may be the underdogs going into this but I’m hopeful that Wenger’s record in this competition will stand to him. The man knows how to win an FA Cup, simple as that. I’m cautiously optimistic. I don’t know if we’ll keep Chelsea out for the whole game, so it’s going to be all about how well we can break them down and take our chances. I think we’ll win it, possibly in extra-time.

As always, thanks for reading! And thanks for reading all of these that I have done throughout the season. It may not have been anywhere near the kinda season we’d have liked but making these posts certainly helped me to move on from whatever poor result happened the weekend before. I’m not entirely sure what the future holds for WIITW. The very nature of them could make them a bit repetitive in a second season. But I will be back in some way!

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