What do you need in sport to be a success? A huge dose of talent, naturally, but a slither of luck here and there can never hurt either.
Chelsea, it seems, have plenty of both. They are the best team in England, proven by their record-breaking title run, and they have had plenty of luck too in the sense that they have remained largely injury-free throughout the campaign. The Blues have yet to reach an insurmountable obstacle.
Arsenal have plenty of talented players – that’s a given – but they haven’t quite been as lucky as their capital city counterparts. And, worst of all, they have suffered something of an injury crisis ahead of their biggest game of the season.
No Wembley Swansong for Arsene
Saturday sees the FA Cup final take place at Wembley Stadium, and this has been the scene of many highlights from Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal career. Indeed, on a few occasions hoisting this trophy has saved his job.
It seems as though his future is in his own hands this time around, although you suspect that if his side fails to capture the silverware tomorrow then his job is simply untenable.
Unfortunately for the Frenchman, his team are going to have to do things the hard way. Key defender Laurent Koscielny is suspended and will definitely miss out, while his central defensive partner Shkodran Mustafi is struggling to shake off the effects of concussion.
Factor in knocks to Alexis Sanchez, Kieran Gibbs and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – you imagine the Chilean will be covered head to toe in bubblewrap just to get him onto the pitch – and the task facing Wenger in delivering the perfect sign-off as Arsenal manager is almost insurmountable.
We say almost, because Chelsea have conceded in 13 of their last 16 outings. Does that offer Arsenal a chink of light?
An Irresistible Force
To lift the FA Cup on Saturday Arsenal must achieve something extraordinary: and that’s extraordinary because only three teams have beaten the Blues since September.
The secret of Chelsea’s success is obvious: good players in an ‘unusual’ formation that most sides don’t play that often. Antonio Conte has got his team well drilled and organised, and in their title-winning run they have been able to beat all manner of sides; from the flamboyant to the pugnacious. That suggests they are completely comfortable with their set-up.
There are question marks about them defensively, but those certainly pale into significance compared to Arsenal’s lack of personnel.
It’s hard to get away from Arsenal’s defensive woes, and while it is easy to over-analyse things like that surely it will prove to be decisive over 90 minutes.
Generally we might expect cup finals to be tense, terse and tight contests, but the last three FA Cup finales have been anything but; ending 3-2, 4-0 and 2-1. An argument for goals can certainly be made.
As such, we fancy Chelsea to take a high-scoring contest. This is the last opportunity for punters to have a dabble on the football as far as mainstream action is concerned, so here are two flutters worthy of your time….
For the reasons outlined abundantly in this preview, Chelsea to Win & Over 2.5 Goals is well worthy of your time at 13/8. It’s quite likely that Arsenal will score, so logic leads us to this selection.
And finally, here’s a 2/1 shot to crow about: Chelsea to score in both halves. It’s a longshot, but it certainly has legs and could make that lofty price look very silly come Saturday evening.