For the third time in the last four years, Arsenal and Chelsea contest a major Cup final. With one victory each — Arsenal took the 2017 FA Cup, Chelsea took the 2019 Europa Leauge — this one’s a bit of a rubber match.
The narrative has this one as more “important” to Arsenal, since it’s their only way back into Europe next season, but there’s no point in playing the game if we’re not in it to win it. Every final is the most important final.
This is in effect also the last match of the season. We have the formality of the Champions League Round of 16 second leg still to go next weekend, but negotiating from a 3-0 deficit against Bayern Munich is not exactly an ideal or promising situation.
Winning the FA Cup would make Lampard’s first season in charge of Chelsea an unqualified success.
Date / Time: Saturday, August 1, 2020, 17.30 BST; 12:30pm EDT; 10pm IST
Venue: Wembley, London, England
Referee: Anthony Taylor (on pitch); Stuart Attwell (VAR) — Taylor is the first referee in 119 years to referee the FA Cup final for a second time! Taylor’s first FA Cup final? The 2017 edition between Chelsea and Arsenal! (Wherein he sent off Victor Moses with a second yellow for diving.)
Forecast: It’s gonna be a bright, bright, bright sunshiny day ... unless we lose
On TV: BBC One (UK); none (USA); Sony TEN 2, TEN 3 (India); SuperSport 3, SuperSport 8 (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: BBC iPlayer (UK); ESPN+ (USA); Sony LIV (India); DStv Now (NGA) — We (WAGNH) have an affiliate link for ESPN+ if you’re in the US and would like to sign up for the best value in sports streaming (or, if you’re like me, sign up for the Disney-Hulu-ESPN+ bundle).
Arsenal team news: Much better things were expected from Arsenal than a mid-table finish (8th), to say the least, but returning club hero Mikel Arteta seems to have them at least pointed in the right direction, if not quite moving that way yet. Of course, when you’re just one David Luiz disaster-class away from, well, disaster, it’s tough to build momentum. Then again, we shouldn’t be too smug: Arsenal have actually conceded six (6!) fewer goals than Chelsea’s historically bad 54 total in the Premier League.
The former Chelsea cult hero tends to also show up huge in Cup finals, as we shouldn’t forget. Fortunately, we’ve got our own Cup specialist, too, in Olivier Giroud, ironically once of Arsenal, as well.
Arsenal didn’t have the easiest path to the final by any means, even before having to navigate past Arteta’s former employers, Manchester City, in the semifinals. Pep Guardiola’s former assistant now has a chance of becoming the first Arsenal captain to also win the FA Cup as a manager. (Lampard’s won it four times as Chelsea Vice-captain, incidentally.) In the earlier rounds, the Gunners moved on by one-goal margins over Championship-winners Leeds United and Premier League sides Bournemouth and Sheffield United (both away). They also beat EFL Trophy finalists Portsmouth by the same scoreline as they did Manchester City, 2-0.
Point is, they shouldn’t be underestimated, especially as Shkodran Mustafi looks set to miss out.
View from the enemy: The Short Fuse
Chelsea team news: The big news is that N’Golo Kanté is back in contention for another final, mirroring the situation from last May’s Europa League. Kanté pushed through his knee injury at the time, but has not been right (at least not for more than a few weeks at a time) ever since. The injury now is a hamstring, but the conundrum is exactly the same.
Willian, who’s still without a contract for next season, is also set to be available after failing to recover from an unspecified soft tissue injury last weekend. He’s been running in the recovery pool all week, and will surely be thrown out there by Lampard if at all able to go.
No such luck for Ruben Loftus-Cheek however. In yet another time-is-a-flat-circle moment, he’s picked up a small issue ahead of another final against Arsenal. RLC is still just coming back from the Achilles rupture he suffered ahead of last year’s Europa League final. The football gods do have a cruel sense of humor sometimes.
All eyes will of course be on the goalkeeper as well, where Father Time Wilfredo Caballero is set to deputize for Kepa Arrizabalaga, who finished the season with the second worst Premier League save percentage since 2003 (the worst belongs to his current goalkeeper coach, Hilário, which is indeed quite hilarious). Chelsea’s defending, as alluded to above, hasn’t done Kepa any favors, but it’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation.
All that will have to be dealt with in the summer — goalkeeper, center backs, full backs, defensive midfielders, and so now — for now, we just need to hold it together for one game. Just win, baby.
Previously: Thank you, Arsenal.