The Premiership campaign is done and dusted and all that remains of the season is the FA Cup final, which sees Chelsea meet Arsenal at Wembley. The Blues are going for the double after winning the title in style, while Arsenal are trying to salvage something from a dismal season by claiming silverware. They have met twice this season, with one win apiece, and it should prove to be an exciting game.
Arsenal ran riot at The Emirates in September as they beat Chelsea 3-0, with Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil tearing Antonio Conte’s men to shreds. Optimism abounded in the red half of north London and there were whispers this could finally be the year they ended their title drought.
A subsequent sleepless night saw Conte mastermind Chelsea’s revival. He switched to his preferred three at the back, and taught Marcus Alonso and Victor Moses to play as wing-backs. This freed up Eden Hazard to devastating effect, and the rest is history. Chelsea went on a 13-match winning run and never looked back, winning the title at a canter.
In the meantime Arsenal regressed badly. They have lost nine times this season in the league, were thrashed 10-2 on aggregate by Bayern Munich in the Champions League and have been regularly booed by fans. Arsene Wenger has been subject to protests, with fans begging him to leave, and pessimism has hung about the club. At no time was this more evident than the trip to Stamford Bridge, where Chelsea exacted revenge by beating the Gunners 3-1. At one point, Hazard slalomed through the Arsenal defence like he was on a training pitch and slotted in for one of the goals of the season.
But Arsenal have started to turn things around towards the end of the season, winning the majority of their games after they too switched to three at the back. The extra centre-half has solidified a leaky defence and made them less vulnerable to crosses and set pieces, while the energy of the wing-backs has freed up Alexis Sanchez in a similar way to Hazard. It saw Arsenal past Man City in the semi-finals, while Chelsea thumped Tottenham 4-2.
This will be the first time this season they have both played with three at the back, and it should be a fascinating tactical battle. Chelsea are understandably favourites. An examination of Bodog sportsbook and other bookmakers shows they are just below evens, but the opportunity to almost double your money by backing the league’s best team to beat an under-performing Arsenal side in 90 minutes will be tempting for many.
But Arsenal have won the FA Cup for two of the last three seasons and they excel in this competition. They have the players to cause Chelsea trouble. They can be backed at 3/1 and if they can get the ball to Sanchez in dangerous positions they have a chance. Still, most of the action is going on Chelsea and at that sort of price it is easy to see why.