fa cup final

3 Ways Arsenal Can Beat Chelsea In The FA Cup Final.

On Saturday, Arsenal will play Chelsea in the 136th annual FA Cup final. The Blues are runaway favourites for the event as they just won the Premier League with the 2nd highest points total in history. Arsenal, on the other hand, are coming off their worst season in 20 years. For the first time under Arsène Wenger, Arsenal will not be playing Champions League football next season. Instead, the Gunners will be mixing it up amongst the greats in the Europa League.

Regardless of their league respective campaigns, the FA Cup final is a one-off game where anything can happen. However, history does the favour the Premier League champions as they’ve beaten Arsenal 8 times in their last 13 meetings. On the flip side, let’s not forget that this is the FA Cup final and Arsenal have appeared in this final more times (20) than anyone else. This match might not be as clear-cut as we first thought.

Here are 3 weaknesses of Chelsea that Arsenal can exploit on Saturday.

#3 Target the wing-backs

Chelseas-Victor-Moses

Many a tactician has noted that the main flaw of the 3-4-3 system is the unbalance it provides in wide areas. With relentless wing-backs bombing forward, Chelsea leave themselves open in wide areas whenever they attack. As Arsenal also now play with wing-backs, Wenger’s men could easily expose the space left behind by Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses. Arsenal’s two behind the striker Mesut Özil and Alexis Sánchez could also station themselves in wide areas meaning an overload could be created down the flanks.

This would allow Arsenal to double up in areas where Chelsea lack cover thus creating several numerical advantages in the build-up. Once the wide spaces are exploited, Arsenal could then focus on the outer centre-backs of Chelsea’s back three.

Both Caesar Azpilicueta and David Luiz are suspect to 1v1 defending, they both need the solidity of a system to cover their flaws. Overloads on flanks help expose individual flaws thus highlighting which players are the biggest liabilities.

#2 Defend in a low-block

arsenal low block

If you’ve watched the Premier League champions closely this season, you’ll notice that Conte’s men operate best on the counter attack. They’re a transition-based team that capitalise on the inefficiency of their opponent’s positioning. Chelsea defend in as many numbers they attack in, Conte has drilled them to operate as a cohesive unit in all phases of play.

The only way to deny Chelsea of their counter-attacking threat is to completely restrict them of space in the first place. To not give Chelsea the opportunity to counter attack, you must force them to have the ball.

Arsenal must defend in two banks of four against Chelsea in order to deprive them of the space they thrive on. The Gunners need to be the ones looking to counter attack to ensure they limit Chelsea to futile ball possession. Without Cesc Fabregas in the side, Chelsea are not incisive with the ball, as no one can thread through balls like he can.

#1 Man mark Eden Hazard

hazard man marking

Eden Hazard has created 89 chances in 36 appearances.

For those who don’t know, Eden Hazard is the catalyst of everything good attacking wise for Chelsea. The Belgian can often pick up the ball in his own half, travel through the middle third and create chances in the final third. He’s man that sparks a revival in times of lacklusterness for Chelsea.

As we saw a few weeks back, when Eden Hazard is man-marked out of the game, Chelsea are toothless. Jose Mourinho specifically tasked Ander Herrera with the role of marking Hazard, a role he adhered to with the utmost of discipline. This would mean following him around the pitch, regardless of whether it’s in the centre or on the flanks.

Coquelin would have to stay tight, tackle strongly and be pro-active in his press of Hazard. He must ensure he’s stopping supply to Hazard rather than defending against him when he has the ball. Because as we all know, Hazard is one of the best 1v1 dribblers in the world.

If Arsenal could get Francis Coquelin to replicate a similar task, they could then focus on the other less potent threats Chelsea pose. Without Hazard in action, Chelsea are less organised in build-up play as Diego Costa is not the type of centre-forward that links up well with the midfield. Instead, Chelsea will have to rely on the pass selection of N’golo Kante, a pass selection not enough for cutting open Arsenal.

About the Author Mathaeus Abuwa

Arsenal fan with a soft spot for Pascal Cygan.

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