Photo: Rookie managers Mikel Arteta (left) and Frank Lampard will be hunting their first titles when Arsenal and Chelsea do battle in the FA Cup final today at Wembley.
Arsenal and Chelsea will lock horns in England's longest running cup competition at Wembley today in the 139th FA Cup Final. It will be third meeting in the finals between these two clubs. The last time they were in a similar position, Arsenal came away winners 2-1 and lifted their 13th title, the most by any club.
Holders Manchester City were dethroned by the persistent Arsenal in the semis and are seeking a record-extending 14th triumph in the competition. Chelsea on the other hand, outclassed Manchester United 3-1 in the other semifinal and are seeking their 9th hold on the coveted Emirate FA Cup trophy.
Arsenal and Chelsea have had more success in the FA Cup than every other club since the start of 21st century, lifting the famous trophy a combined 11 times since 2001.
The Gunners have so often relied on the oldest domestic cup competition to salvage their campaign in recent times, and that is also very much the case this time around.
Former Gunners captain Mikel Arteta succeeded Unai Emery in December, but failed to make the mark that was expected as 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.
So 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 Cup.
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.
Arsenal are synonymous with the FA Cup, though, and tend to lift the trophy when they make it as far as the final. This is their 21st finals, therefore they have only lost 7 times at this stage. They have won in eight of their last nine FA Cup finals.
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 spectacle since 1997 and they have won seven of those.
Their only two defeats in that period? Both to Arsenal - in 2002 and the aforementioned meeting three years ago when Aaron Ramsey struck a late winner for the Gunners.
Frankie and the Blues
Frank Lampard is under less pressure than his opposing number after capturing the final Champions League spot in a comprehensive 2-0 victory over Wolves last Sunday. It is fair to say, the Blues are entering the finals in the driving seat. Lampard in his first season at the helm at Stamford Bridge has had to cope with the loss of key players due to transfer and injuries but managed to keep his team in the top half while playing attractive football.
Assuming there is no upset in next week's Champions League last-16 second leg with German champions Bayern Munich, which they trail 0-3, this is Lampard's only chance to win silverware this term.
Chelsea have won just one of their last 13 FA Cup games against Arsenal (D4 L8), beating them 2-1 in the 2009 semi-final, courtesy of goals from Florent Malouda and a late Didier Drogba winner. Frank Lampard will be the first English manager to take charge of Chelsea in a major cup final since Glenn Hoddle in the 1994 FA Cup, a 0-4 loss to Manchester United. The last English manager to win a major trophy with Chelsea was Dave Sexton (1971 Cup Winner’s Cup).
In FA Cup final history, there has been two players play for both clubs playing in the final – Francis Birley played for Oxford University against Wanderers in 1873, and vice versa in 1877, while Jack Reynolds played for both Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion in the 1890s. Both Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud and Arsenal’s David Luiz could achieve this, having played for their opponents in the 2017 final.
Gunners saving grace
History will be made on Saturday with this being the latest date an FA Cup final has ever been played. It has been a unique campaign in so many ways and this is a fitting fixture to bring the curtains down - the most contested final in the competition's history.
Both teams have very impressive records when they reach the final, but in the here and now Chelsea finished some 10 points better off than the Gunners in the Premier League.
The FA Cup has been a welcome safety net for Arsenal in recent times however, so it is not hard to see them edging this heavyweight clash to continue their love affair with the competition.
Mikel Arteta is to become only the second man to manage Arsenal in an FA Cup final having also played for the Gunners in one, after George Graham. He could become the first person to win the FA Cup with as Arsenal as both a captain and a manager.
Arteta continues to overlook Mesut Ozil and Matteo Guendouzi for selection, so options are somewhat limited all over the park.
The Gunners have stumbled upon a formation that works well for them, though, with the 3-4-3 fielded against Man City in the semis working to perfection.
Assuming that remains the case this weekend, Kieran Tierney is expected to be used as part of the back three, with Bukayo Sakafavourite to get the nod at left wing-back.
Irrespective of who is available for both teams. this promises to be a humdinger as Chelsea seeks revenge, while Arsenal wants to continue their dominance.