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FA Cup favorites Arsenal facing defensive crisis for final against Chelsea

Somewhere in West London, Diego Costa is licking his luscious lips and twitching his glorious eyebrows at the prospect of facing an Arsenal defense without their best player on Saturday.

On Tuesday, the FA upheld Laurent Koscielny’s three-match suspension — it was a long-shot appeal, even in the random world of FA appeals — which, combined with Gabriel Paulista’s potentially serious knee ligament injury and Shkodran Mustafi’s questionable status thanks to concussion symptoms, could leave Arsenal with extant obelisk Per Mertesacker (and whatever a Rob Holding may be) anchoring Wenger’s newfangled copycat three-man defense.

Oopsie daisy!

Since switching to three at the back after the 3-0 defeat to Crystal Palace in mid-April — Zonal Marking naming Conte’s reintroduction of the three-man defense to the English masses “probably the most decisive tactical switch in the history of the Premier League” — Arsenal have conceded just six goals in nine matches. But Koscielny played in seven of those games and he will be a big loss for them even if Mustafi is cleared to play.

UPDATE: Gabriel knee injury confirmed; set to miss two months.

Wenger is also sweating the fitness of Alexis Sánchez, who’s trying to overcome a hamstring injury for the game (while his agent apparently negotiates a move to Bayern Munich).

Meanwhile, Chelsea are fully fit, though as Conte has pointed out, Arsenal are bound to be the more desperate of the two teams to win a trophy and we must thus work extra hard to rediscover our concentration after a fortnight of partying and celebrations.

“If you ask me who you think the favourites are now, I think it's Arsenal. They only have this possibility to find a good season after a win in the FA Cup. For this reason we must find motivation and find in ourselves the right anger. The game will be very difficult, above all for this reason.”

“Arsenal have missed out on the Champions League for the first time in I don't know how many years, so we must prepare in the right way. I'm not talking tactically. I'm talking about motivation, the right fire in our soul and our hearts. If we have this in the same proportion as Arsenal in that respect, we have the possibility to do the double and win. Otherwise we risk a lot.”

“This is the real danger for us. To think that this season is finished and if you win or lose it doesn't change the situation. We must think as winners, not as losers. It's important to celebrate as we did today, enjoying this moment with our families and fans, and celebrate this title because it wasn't easy, this season.”

“But as of tomorrow, I'll try and push a lot to explain that this season will be great. If we hadn't won the title, this season would have been good. Having won it, it's become great. Now I think this season can become fantastic if we are able to win the FA Cup. We must find the right motivation.”

"At this level, with Chelsea and Arsenal at the same level... we lost 3-0 in the league, won the other one 3-1, so we have an opportunity to play the third game with Arsenal. It's important for us to celebrate but then to find the right fire in our soul to work very hard this week and 'feel' this game.”

“It's a great opportunity to win and do the double.”

-Antonio Conte; source: Goal

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