Arsenal have one more chance to secure European football next season as they take on Chelsea in the FA Cup final at Wembley on Saturday (kick-off 5.30pm).
The winner of the FA Cup is guaranteed a spot in the Europa League group stages for the following season and there will be a few teams with one beady eye on Saturday’s final.
For Arsenal, who finished eighth in the Premier League this season, it’s really quite simple – they need to win to book their place in the Europa League group stages for the 2020/21 campaign.
It could have a massive effect in who they can attract in the summer transfer window and also which players could leave – Mikel Arteta has already said that winning the FA Cup could help convince captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to stay.
If Chelsea win, their spot in the Europa League will be deferred to the next highest-placed finish in the Premier League with Frank Lampard’s side having already secured a Champions League spot through their own league finish.
This would see Tottenham into the Europa League group stage next season with Wolves entering into the Europa League qualifying rounds – which Spurs are currently set to do – taking the place secured by Manchester City when they won the Carabao Cup.
The winner of the FA Cup will also face Liverpool in the Community Shield at Wembley on Saturday, August 29.
Olivier Giroud has scored 16 FA Cup goals since his debut in the competition in January 2013. Only Sergio Aguero has scored more in that time. Giroud – a four-time FA Cup winner – loves this competition.
He loves Wembley too, labelling it ‘my garden’ after scoring in Chelsea’s semi-final win over Southampton at the national stadium in 2018. The Blues went on to beat Manchester United in that final and Giroud – who scored against United in this season’s semi-final – is undefeated at Wembley since 2012.
The Frenchman has become a key player for Chelsea boss Frank Lampard since the restart and will be a real danger for his former side Arsenal on Saturday, according to Sky Sports News reporter Paul Gilmour.
Speaking on the FA Cup final preview podcast, he said: “Giroud’s team-mates in interviews recently have almost been queuing up to praise him.
“It’s an incredible transformation after he didn’t play for so long. He almost left in January – Inter Milan and Tottenham were in for him, among others – so it is a brilliant transformation and he’s got the goals, the big FA Cup goals to back up the claim about Wembley being a good venue for him.
“He’s making an impact and I think the players around him enjoy playing with him because he does unsettle centre backs. I don’t know what it is about Giroud because towards the end Arsenal almost saw him as second choice and Lampard at first saw him as second choice. Is it the lack of pace? Do people think a successful striker these days must have a load of pace?
“He’s certainly stepped up at a time when Chelsea have needed him and he’s been crucial in getting Chelsea to achieve their primary targets.”
Saturday’s final represents the final chance for Arsenal to secure European football next season, but it is also a chance for Lampard to secure a trophy in his first season at Chelsea.
Soccer Saturday pundit Charlie Nicholas believes it is vital for Arsenal to be in the Europa League, telling Sky Sports News: “It’s very important for Arteta as having walked through the door he’s found the poorest Arsenal team in the Premier League.
“He’s had to deal with individuals like Matteo Guendouzi not responding in the way he wanted him to, he’s had to wait for Kieran Tierney to get fit, how bad is the defence, the injury to his goalkeeper Bernd Leno… he’s had nothing but problems.
“But he’s gradually given us, as Arsenal people, hope. I’ve heard people say that if he wins this, it will cover over the cracks. It won’t. Arsenal were in decline and have been now for five, six, seven seasons.
“Arsene Wenger, towards the end of his reign, kept on winning FA Cups just to keep things going. When you’re new and you bring in a winning mentality, that is part of the fabric of the rebuild.
“Yes, it’s very important for Arsenal but it’s just as important for Frank Lampard rather than Chelsea.
“As an Arsenal man, I’m pretty confident that things are going in the right way, we’re kind of limited defensively, but I do think that Arteta knows exactly what he’s got, and I think recently, with the bad results we’ve had against the big teams, beating Liverpool and beating Manchester City I think proved a point.
“They go into this one with confidence, with belief, and it’s just two teams that just love to attack.”
Mikel Arteta says Arsenal’s supporters deserve to experience the “joy” that comes with winning the FA Cup ahead of their final with Chelsea on Saturday.
Frank Lampard believes the experience of taking on Arsenal in the FA Cup final can only be a positive for the development of his young players, and hopes a victory can help his side in their bid to challenge for the Premier League title.
Arsenal have no fresh injury concerns heading into the final. The Gunners will be without defender Shkodran Mustafi, who underwent surgery on a hamstring issue suffered in the semi-final win over Manchester City.
Cedric Soares is cup-tied and misses out as do Pablo Mari (ankle), Gabriel Martinelli and Calum Chambers (both knee) – goalkeeper Bernd Leno is fit following his own knee injury but head coach Mikel Arteta has said Emiliano Martinez will start.
Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek will miss the showpiece after picking up a minor injury in training on Thursday. He had fought his way back to full fitness after a number of issues this term, but will now miss the Wembley contest.
N’Golo Kante is fit after hamstring trouble, while Willian is back having missed Sunday’s 2-0 win over Wolves with an ankle complaint.
Arsenal and Chelsea’s predicted line-ups were discussed on the FA Cup final preview podcast.
Sky Sports’ Nick Wright reckons Mikel Arteta will go with a back three after a back four left Arsenal too exposed against Watford on the final day of the Premier League season.
“It’s fair to say it didn’t exactly work in that game – Watford tore them to shreds really, at times,” he said. “It was not a convincing defensive performance at all.
“I suspect he’ll probably revert to three at the back, using Rob Holding and David Luiz with either Sead Kolasinac or Kieran Tierney as the third centre back. I’d probably opt for Tierney in that situation and then you’d have Bukayo Saka as the left wing-back.”
Arsenal predicted XI: Martinez, Bellerin, Holding, David Luiz, Tierney, Saka, Ceballos, Xhaka, Aubameyang, Lacazette, Pepe.
Sky Sports News’ Paul Gilmour believes Frank Lampard will try to match up Arsenal’s back-three formation with a similar system himself.
“Lampard has gone for a back three for the last three games and they’ve got a bit of momentum – albeit one of those games being the 5-3 with Liverpool, which was a bit crazy. That was with Kepa but in the last two with Willy Caballero in goal there’s been a lot less drama, the Manchester United game and the Wolves game.
“The toughest decision for Lampard will be the players who play around Giroud. Willian, we’ll have to wait and see if he’s fit, Mason Mount and Christian Pulisic – it’s likely to be two from that three and all three of them have played very well of late.”
Chelsea predicted XI: Caballero, James, Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Zouma, Alonso, Kovacic, Jorginho, Mount, Pulisic, Giroud.
The FA Cup final will be preceded by a 60-second “#SoundofSupport” moment to raise awareness of mental health, with fans will be urged to show the ‘sound of support’ – and to make sure it’s heard by those who need it.
Ahead of kick-off, unique artificial crowd noise will be played in the stadium, created from a soundscape of real mental health conversations with fans and players.
The crowd noise will be introduced to the players and fans by a rallying spoken word piece from poet and mental health champion Hussain Manawer.
Heads Up branding will be prominent around the stadium, including the trophy’s ribbons and a banner across the south side of the stadium urging fans to ‘fill the silence with the #SoundOfSupport’. Both clubs and match officials will show their support with the campaign’s logo on their match kit.
- Arsenal are appearing in their 21st FA Cup final, more than any other side. Indeed, the Gunners have won the competition more often than any other side (13).
- This will be the third time in the last four seasons that Arsenal will be ending their campaign against Chelsea, winning the 2017 FA Cup final and losing last season’s Europa League final against the Blues in Baku.
- Mikel Arteta is to become only the second man to manage Arsenal in an FA Cup final having also played for the Gunners in one, after George Graham. He could become the first person to win the FA Cup with as Arsenal as both a captain and a manager.
- This will be the first FA Cup final managed by two men who both also played for their teams in an FA Cup final since 2012 (Roberto di Matteo vs Kenny Dalglish). Mikel Arteta won with Arsenal in 2014, while Frank Lampard played in five finals for the Blues, winning four. Indeed, Lampard’s only FA Cup final defeat as a player was against Arsenal in 2002.
- Frank Lampard will be the first English manager to take charge of Chelsea in a major cup final since Glenn Hoddle in the 1994 FA Cup, a 0-4 defeat against Manchester United. The last English manager to win a major trophy with Chelsea was Dave Sexton (1971 Cup Winner’s Cup).
- In FA Cup final history, there have been two players play for both clubs in a specific final fixture – Francis Birley played for Oxford University against Wanderers in 1873, and vice versa in 1877, while Jack Reynolds played for both Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion in the 1890s. Both Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud and Arsenal’s David Luiz could achieve this, having played for their opponents in the 2017 final.