Chelsea started the FA Cup final very well, grabbing an early goal through Christian Pulisic. Alas, it was basically all downhill from there. In the end, the final score was the same as in 2017, 2-1 to Arsenal, with Chelsea down to ten.
The early impetus died out quickly and by the first drinks break, the match was a much more even affair. Arsenal in fact dominated the rest of the first-half, repeatedly exploiting Chelsea’s flanks (which is where one would exploit a 3-4-3 formation) with speed, especially on our right. One of those plays resulted in a penalty, which was a bad call, but, as it turned out, far from the worst on the day. Aubameyang who had crumbled to the ground under the weight of Azpilicueta’s five-tonne hand, made no mistake from the spot.
The half-time whistle seemed to come at a good time, with Chelsea all at sea. And the Blues did come out seemingly more in control in the second half. But the attack was slow and lacked a cutting edge, especially after Christian Pulisic joined Azpilicueta in picking up a hamstring injury. We made it easy for Arsenal, who duly took the lead on a counter, with the referee ignoring a clear foul in the process as if we needed any more help to play bad defense.
Then Chelsea went down a man, too, as Mateo Kovačić was shown a second yellow card for something that wasn’t even a foul. (Mason Mount was also show a yellow for a similar non-foul in the first-half, in a rare bit of consistency.) Arsenal’s goalkeeper then handled the ball outside the area, but that wasn’t called. Referee Anthony Taylor indeed put in a truly historic performance on the occasion of becoming the first referee to take charge of a second FA Cup final in 119 years.
It’s easy to blame a referee in a loss, but this was a truly shocking performance from supposedly one of the “best” referees in England.
And Chelsea are of course far from faultless as well, but that’s especially a problem when you have to play against 12.
“We started well for 10-15 minutes and we can only blame ourselves form that point. We got complacent, we took time on the ball like it was a stroll and we allowed them into the game. It’s hard to get back into the game then. A lot of today is on us.”
The issues seen from the Blues weren’t new by any means — slow passing, porous defending, lack of personality, individual and collective mistakes, both from the players and the coaches. Lampard got the tactics wrong, certainly in the first-half, and our improvement in the second had as much to do with Arsenal being happy to sit back and counter than anything we did proactively.
“All I can do form the sidelines is shout! There are elements in our game that we have worked hard on all year but that is in you as a group. Today we were slow, we played back on ourselves, invited pressure. We didn’t play well enough to win a final.”
-Frank Lampard; source: BBC
If the game stays 11-v-11 maybe we would’ve mounted a better effort late, but that’s something we’ll never know now.
With the two hamstrings and a dislocated shoulder late on for Pedro in his farewell match adding the literal injuries to the insults, it was not a good day for Chelsea. And that takes the shine off the season, which is a shame.
“We had a good start, but we got sloppy and didn’t ram it home. We got slower in our game. We came out brighter in the second half. There were things in the game which conspired against us, but we didn’t play well enough.”
“We shouldn’t look at just today. It wasn’t to be the icing on the cake.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Football.London
I suppose we shouldn’t throw the cake out.