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Arsenal vs Chelsea – FA Cup Final Preview


Arsenal face Chelsea in a London derby FA Cup Final. Arsenal’s need for victory stretches far beyond pride and silverware. A victory for Arsenal would mean qualification to next year’s Europa League, which could have large ramifications for the club, especially regarding future recruitment.

This preview will aim to offer insight and analysis into the expected key tactical battles in the match and how the game might play out.

Form Guide

Mikel Arteta and Arsenal ended the season winning  3 of their last 5 matches, losing 2; to Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa. To reach the final, Arsenal impressively beat Manchester City 2-0, with Aubameyang, masterfully netting the brace.

In Chelsea’s last five games in all competitions, Frank Lampard and his side recorded three wins and two defeats, ending the season finishing fourth. Most notable in those five games Chelsea lost 3-0 to Sheffield United and 5-3 to Liverpool, whilst beating Manchester United 3-1 to reach the final and claiming fourth spot with a fighting 2-0 victory over Wolves.

Mikel Arteta’s first game in charge of Arsenal was at Emirates against Chelsea. Unfortunately for Arsenal, Chelsea ran out 2-1 winners, with Jorginho and Abraham, cancelling out Aubameyang’s opening goal. The game was full of incident and controversy, with the Jorginho fortunate to escape a red card, before scoring. Arsenal for the large part played very well, but individual errors were capitalised upon by Chelsea. In the reverse fixture, Arsenal were made to play most of the match with ten men after David Luiz got sent off after 25 minutes. Both Martinelli and Bellerin scored super goals, whilst Jorginho and Azpilicueta scored for Chelsea, to end the game 2-2. Again, Arsenal played well, however induvial mistakes made life a lot harder.

Predicted Formations

Sporadically throughout the season, Chelsea have used a 3-4-3 as they aim to add some defensive security to their team. Against Manchester United it was most impressive as it allowed Chelsea to press high, shut passes into the central areas and funnel United into areas where Chelsea could trap them and win possession back. Chelsea’s 3-4-3 has seen the return of former Arsenal front man, Olivier Giroud. His form has been exceptional, scoring all of his 8 Premier League goals the season, in his last 13 games.

Arguably Mikel Arteta’s best Arsenal performances have come with the Gunners playing a 3-4-3. With the exception against Watford, Arsenal have used this in four of their last five games. Defensively, Arsenal will be without Callum Chambers, Pablo Mari and Shkodran Mustafi for the clash. If Arteta is to deploy a back three, it will most likely see Kieran Tierney drop back into the back three, once more. This may see Bukayo Saka return to left wingback. Bernd Leno is a doubt for the fixture as well.

Key Match-ups

A key match-up for Arsenal could be Giroud against Tierney. Chelsea are more than happy to go long from defence and with Giroud standing at 6″3, he is more than capable at winning the ball or flicking it on. Tierney, who has slotted in at left sided centre back, may be the victim of Giroud pulling onto him for a diagonal long ball. Tierney who is 5″8, could seriously be at threat to these balls and this should be of real concern for Arsenal.

Another interesting match-up will be Aubameyang against Azpilicueta. Azpilicueta has been getting forward a lot from wide centre back for Chelsea in their previous matches. However with the pace and brilliance of Aubameyang, the space he leaves could well and truly be punished. Its going to be a real dilemma for Lampard and the Spaniard, as to how often he will go forward. If he does attack he can help create a 3v2 out wide for Chelsea, but is it worth it if Aubameyang is waiting in space.

How Arsenal Will Navigate Chelsea’s Press

A key aspect Arsenal will need to ensure they are well prepared for, is Chelsea’s high aggressive press. There is absolutely no doubt that Frank Lampard’s first thought will be to unsettle Arsenal’s defence. It is absolutely imperative that Arsenal create the correct patterns and sequences to build-up play and beat the press. Against United, Chelsea went man for man, creating a 5v5 or 7v7 should the centre midfielders and wingbacks drop to aid build-up play for United. This forced United to go long and Chelsea’s physically dominating centre backs could win the aerial balls. In the instances they couldn’t, Chelsea’s midfielders could quickly shuttle back to win the second balls. Chelsea did struggle when Bruno Fernandes dropped deeper for Manchester United and United created a 3v2 in midfield.

Manchester United aimed to break the press through the physicality of their defenders and when successful done, allowed them to create a 3v2 or 4v2 (if Fernandes dropped) in central areas. This allowed them to get out of defence and move play to the second phase. This is risky though. If the ball carrier miss controls, then Chelsea were in on goal against and unorganised defence. I would be shocked if Mikel Arteta instructed his players to do this. It’s more likely that Arteta will look to his players to transform from a back three to a back four, when building up. They did this against Liverpool, with success. In that game, once Arsenal got through the initial pressure, they were able to unlock players in space and create numerical superiority. This also helped them overload the right back, which they may look to do against and unexperienced Reece James.

Arsenal vs Chelsea - FA Cup Final Preview

As you can see from the image above, Chelsea pressed in a man orientated aggressive system against Manchester United. Chelsea’s press stifled United’s build-up play until Fernandes (18) began to drop deep. Rüdiger was reluctant to follow Fernandes given the space that would be left for Daniel James and Marcus Rashford to sprint into.


A major weakness for Chelsea this season has been set-pieces. They have conceded 16 goals from set-pieces alone this season. At the start of the season, Chelsea opted for a zonal marking approach, however recently have altered to a mixture of zonal and man marking. Chelsea’s 4 zonal players, opt to guard the front post and space in front of Kepa Arrizabalaga. Chelsea allocate another 4 players to man mark their opponents, which has led many teams to look to either overload them and create a 5v4, block them freeing a player to attack the far post or free central space for a cut back. Kepa is very reluctant to come for crosses and Willy Caballero, whilst more competent in the air, does succumb to mistakes when punching and catching the ball under pressure.


Opposition analysis by @DylanBuesnel

Aside from Arsenal having a good track record at scoring from set-pieces this season, set-pieces are becoming a real game changer for Arsenal thanks to one of Arteta’s assistant coaches – Albert Stuivenberg. Stuivenberg is very much a set-piece specialist and will surely have pinpointed Chelsea’s weaknesses ahead of the clash. Since his arrival, Arsenal have deployed some very intuitive attacking routines from set-pieces. Im sure we’ll see something special in the final.

Arsenal vs Chelsea - FA Cup Final Preview

This image shows Chelsea against Valencia in the Champions League. Kevin Gameiro breaks away from Chelsea’s man markers and attacks the free space. He gets an uncontested shot away due to the blocking work done by Valencia’s players. This has been a common occurrence for Chelsea this season. As well as this, flick-ons to the far post or runs which lose their markers from the front round to the back, have caused Chelsea many problems.


In conclusion, Arsenal cannot go into this match and try to match Chelsea physically. Chelsea across the board are great athletes and are very good in 1v1 duels. This will require for Arsenal to outthink their opponents and rely on precise tactics to overcome Chelsea’s brawn. Arsenal must ensure they build-up play with precision and can lure Chelsea onto them. They can then progress the ball up the pitch. Once they have done this, Arsenal will be able to exploit Chelsea’s defenders and utilise their breath taking pace to beat them.

In all the previous encounters between these sides this season, Arsenal have played well, created chances, but haven’t been able to make Chelsea pay. Mistakes have allowed Chelsea to punish Arsenal, however I feel it will be different in the final. Personally, I think Arsenal will win and control the game nicely. Chelsea will always be a threat with Pulisic, Giroud and Mount, but I think Arsenal will be smart enough to nullify them well. Both Arteta and Lampard had contradicting styles as players and now as managers that is still clear. Come on Arsenal.

Last 5

Arsenal:  LWWLW

Chelsea:  LWWLW

Average Goals scored per game home

 Arsenal: 1.47

 Chelsea: 1.81

 Average Goals Conceded per game

 Arsenal: 1.26

 Chelsea: 1.42


Arsenal 2 – 1 Chelsea

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