- Antonio Conte’s Chelsea side have the chance to cap off a near perfect season in today’s FA cup final at Wembley, where they face Arsenal in what could be Arsene Wenger’s last ever game at the club after over 20 years as manager.
Much is at stake for the Frenchman today as there have been numerous calls for his head throughout the season, but if Arsenal can beat the Premier League champions today, he could go some way towards validating his reasons for staying in his job.
However, he may not last as manager whatever the result as he has not reassured the fans of his future yet and today’s game would seem like the perfect opportunity to bow out.
Still, after such glorious success in his early days in North London, he will doubtless be desperate to claim his third FA cup in four years, although this year’s champions Chelsea could prove too much for the Gunners to overcome.
After their appalling tenth place finish in 2015/16, the tactical nous of Antonio Conte and the return to form of a number of key players such as Eden Hazard and Diego Costa has seen Chelsea storm to the league title.
Interestingly, it was against today’s opponents where their season really took a turn for the better, where Wenger’s men comfortably dismantled Chelsea 3-0 at the Emirates.
Following that defeat, Conte switched back to the 3-5-2 formation he had previously used in Italy with Juventus, and that decision proved to be inspired as they went on a rampant run, winning 14 games in a row and effectively securing them the title.
Conte has a full strength sqaud at his disposal today, so the only real decision for him to make is whether he should play Pedro or Willian.
Both have impressed when played this season, and Willian grabbed the first two goals in the semi-final of this competition, but Pedro has usually been favoured over the Brazilian and could prove a technically shrewd choice.
And whilst Chelsea have no injury concerns, Arsenal are without a number of key players today, with Kieran Gibbs and Shkodran Mustafi being fitness doubts, Gabriel injured and arguably one of their most important players, Laurent Koscielny, suspended, after a brainless red card last week.
Due to these absences, a three at the back system for Arsenal themselves could prove the answer, as it has been fairly successful for Wenger when employed in recent weeks.
Their defence is likely to be shaky, especially up against the likes of Hazard and Costa, and N’golo Kante and Nemanja Matic are likely to dominate the midfield.
Still, with all the odds against them, Arsene Wenger could yet re-kindle some of his old magic and win today, because after all, with Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal are always likely to be a threat.
Ozil’s inconsistent displays can often cause discontent among the Arsenal faithful, but it is clear that when the German is at full-throttle, he is rarely contained, and Alexis Sanchez has been one of Arsenal’s few players to have enjoyeda a decent season, and after his 2015 cup final cracker against Aston Villa, he will be hoping history will repeat itself.
So, a team who failed to reach the top four this year with a manager in limbo against a team that cruised to the league title under an impressive manager and with some of the best players in the world.
An Arsenal win wouldn’t be a miracle, but it seems highly unlikely. But this is football we’re talking about.