As Arteta, Lampard crave for first managerial trophy
English football’s longest-ever campaign comes to a conclusion this evening when Arsenal and Chelsea face off at Wembley in the 139th FA Cup final. The Gunners knocked out holders, Manchester City in the semis and are seeking a consolidation record of 14th triumph in the competition, three years on from their most recent success. Chelsea, who have secured a top-four finish in the Premier League and could make this an exceptional first campaign for frank Lampard
No two teams have had more success in the FA Cup since the turn of the century than Arsenal and Chelsea, lifting the famous trophy a combined 11 times since 2001.
The Gunners have so often relied on the oldest domestic cup competition of them all to salvage their campaign in recent times, and that is very much the case this time around.
Improvements have been made since succeeded Unai Emery in December, but results have been mixed and the Gunners finished a lowly eighth in the Premier League.
That makes 2019-20 Arsenal’s worst league season in 25 years, having also crashed out of the other two cup competitions they entered relatively early.
It all comes down to one game for the North London outfit, then, with victory today worth up to £30m for the club given it means automatic qualification to the Europa League.
That could be the difference between keeping or selling skipper Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang; the difference between retaining Dani Ceballos or being made to promote from within.
Indeed, they have triumphed in eight of their last nine FA Cup finals, including each of the last six – only Tottenham Hotspur (seven between 1901 and 1982) have won more in a row.
The worry for Arsenal, however, is that Chelsea are equally as prolific when it comes to getting the job done – even more so, perhaps.
After seeing off Manchester United in the semis, this will be the Blues’ ninth appearance in the showpiece fixture since 1997 and they have won seven of those.
There is less pressure on Chelsea than their capital rivals heading into this latest tussle, it is fair to say, with the Blues enjoying a successful debut campaign under Lampard.
The club legend, in only his second campaign as a boss, has navigated a transfer ban and the exit of Eden Hazard to guide his side into fourth and back into the Champions League.
Assuming there is no upset in next week’s Champions League last-16 second leg with Bayern Munich, which they trail 3-0, this is Lampard’s only chance to win silverware this term.
In many ways, though, finishing fourth in the Premier League is deserving of a trophy in the current climate, ensuring that the Blues can push ahead with ambitious transfer plans.
The arrival of Hakim Ziveck and Timo Werner will take Chelsea to another level in 2020-21, but right now, it is all about overcoming Arsenal to lift a first trophy in 15 months.
That most recent piece of silverware was the 2019 Europa League, secured with victory over today’s opponents in the Baku final.
Incredibly, this will therefore be the third time in the last four seasons that Arsenal will end their campaign against Chelsea.
The sides have had a mixed time of things in those previous two finals. Now another chapter is set to be written in a battle between two managerial rookies.
Meanwhile, Chelsea have been handed both good and bad news on the injury front ahead of today’s FA Cup final at Wembley.
In the run-up to the game, Chelsea have had a couple of injury problems, most notably N’Golo Kante, who has missed the last six games in all competitions due to a hamstring injury.
Winger Willian also missed the last Premier League game of the season due to injury. But, speaking in his pre-match press conference, Lampard confirmed that both would be available for the trip to Wembley.
“N’Golo Kante and Willian are in the squad,” he said.
There was however some less cherry news about midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
“Loftus-Cheek has a small problem and is out of the game,” Lampard added.
ARSENAL, CHELSEA FA CUP FACT SHEET
For third time in the last four seasons, Chelsea and Arsenal end the season playing each other in a cup final.
Chelsea and Arsenal have won a combined 12 of the past 20 FA Cup finals (six each).
Chelsea are unbeaten in three games against Arsenal since the Gunners’ 2-0 home Premier League win in January 2019.
This is the 15th time Chelsea and Arsenal have been drawn together in the FA Cup. The Blues have won five and Arsenal nine of the meetings so far.
Chelsea play Arsenal for the 201st occasion in all competitions, more times than the Blues have played against any other club.
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 and Kenny Dalglish).