The Athletic Daily

Like Baku, Arsenal needs FA Cup title more than Chelsea

Arsenal vs Chelsea - 2020 FA Cup finals

Good morning and welcome to August. The month begins with a mouth-watering English FA Cup final between Arsenal and Chelsea at the Wembley Stadium. What’s at stake for this showpiece has been well documented and we know who needs it more, but that does not mean they will win the trophy if they play poorly.

Just like last year’s Europa League final in Baku, with Chelsea already qualified for the Champions League and playing only to win the trophy, it ended in a disappointment for the Gunners with Arsenal being Arsenal, shooting themselves on the foot – they were beatn 4-1 by Mauricio Sarri’s men.

Let’s face it, Arsenal on their day can play any team in the world and come out victorious, but they lack the consistency to sustain such level. The caveat in this final is that it is the FA Cup – the North Londoners are playing in their 21st finals, winning the trophy 13th times, more than any other team in the competition history. I’ve seen many people suggesting Chelsea are only going into this competition with no real pressure to win it, my gut feeling says no.

This is Frank Lampard’s first season as a Chelsea manager having previously coach Derby County in the English Championship. The Blues as much as you hate it will likely buy whoever they want with their resources despite the effect of COVID-19 pandemic, their intention has already been known with the purchase of Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner. Now the team will play in the Uefa Champions League next season, it’s a huge attraction to lure top talents to the south of London.

It will represent a good season for Chelsea and Lampard ending the campaign with a proper trophy and denying their rivals of that revenue to bolster their squad ahead of next season. Chelsea’s two defeats in their last six finals in the competition were against Arsenal – so, finally getting one over the line against the Gunners is a real motivation.

Mikel Arteta (left) and Frank Lampard (right) will hope to win their first managerial trophy in the FA Cup final between Arsenal and Chelsea (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
Mikel Arteta (left) and Frank Lampard (right) will hope to win their first managerial trophy in the FA Cup final between Arsenal and Chelsea (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

For Arsenal, they’ve had a really poor season, finishing 8th in the league, their worst league finish since 1994, out of the continental places. Just like last season when they had the opportunity to return to Champions League, this final is another for the team to return to Europe. The circumstances are different with a new manager in Mikel Arteta who clearly looks like he knows exactly what he is doing.

Winning another FA Cup will confirm tangible improvements we’ve seen in the team since Arteta took over last December. It is a chance to win a proper trophy at the end of a very poor season and also qualify for Europe. Arsenal needs the cash reward that comes with qualifying for Europa League which might help the team persuade captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to sign a new contract. He is 31 but is not slowing down and will give Arteta confident to rebuild the squad while relying on his goalscoring strength to offset some imbalances in the squad.

The team have struggled to create chances but Aubameyang is still scoring as many goals for a striker that lack services. Winning the FA Cup will help persuade the Gabonese striker who has clearly bought into Arteta’s ideas and is leading by example, that Arsenal is the right place for him to stay beyond next season. If he leaves the club, it makes it even more difficult to attract new players of good quality – he holds the key to Arsenal’s rebuild.

Arsenal is still an attractive club for players, but at this level, not top players because of where the team has found itself. Finishing 8th in the league is not entirely doomsday for the club, we’ve seen Chelsea finished 10th under Jose Mourinho but went on to win the title the following season. The Gunners must be very smart in the transfer window and back Arteta.

At this point, I’ll say, it’s a ‘must‘ for Arsenal to win this trophy just like it was in Baku in 2019. Will they ‘arsenal’ themselves this year? Only time will tell.

The match will kickoff by 5.30pm later this evening. Great game for the neutrals with two teams who are poor defensively, fingers crossed it will be a cracker.

Not much of a Nigerian interest in the match but we expect Bukayo Saka to play some part.

That’s all from me…have a great weekend.

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