Antonio Conte and his Chelsea team have been pretty much faultless all season beating pretty much everyone who comes before them, winning the league and now on the brink of the double should they beat Arsene Wenger and his, some may say, underachieving Arsenal side at Wembley today.
Wenger has had a tough time in recent months with sections of the Emirates faithful playing judge, jury and executioner with multiple banners and protests being in situe at matches toward the latter part of the season and not to mention the rants by supporters on Arsenal Fan TV. But Wenger still stands firm and is expected to sign a 2 year deal despite others thinking he should do the reverse and let a more pragmatic possibly younger coach take the reigns.
This of course doesnt matter today in all honestly as the FA Cup stands alone in respect of if Arsenal beat there fellow Londoners it may appease some Gunners fans (possibly) but with Europa League football next year things long term may not be so rosy for the Frenchman.
Conte, the charismatic and passionate Italian has charmed his way into the hearts of the Shed End at Chelsea and with just cause. They never looked like blowing their lead even with a youthful and energetic Spurs side hanging onto their coat tails.
So to todays game and one would assume their is alot riding for both sides. Conte will still have his team pumped without a doubt and Wenger will see a win today as a message to state he can still lead his team in big games.
Laurent Koscielny banned after his moment of madness against Everton last week and he will be a miss especially against the robustness and willing runner in Diego Costa. Per Mertesacker may come in for him as Gabriel is also out injured again against Everton. Aaron Ramsey has fine FA Cup pedigree in goalscoring terms and should play in place of Coquelin. Mesut Ozil needs a performance today having been a tad lacklustre in recent games and the PFA player of the year N’golo Kante will be tasked with disrupting the flow of the German aswell as Alexis Sanchez.
For Chelsea Cesc Fabregas should play against his old side in place of Nemanja Matic with no other changes to the regular starting 11 for Antonio Conte. At the back, David Luiz will be keen to keep Olivier Giroud quiet.
Wing backs v Full backs
The key battle i believe will be on the flanks. Wenger’s recent change to play a 3-4-2-1 had its issues early on but it has come good and will have to be at its strongest today against the attacking nouse of the 3-4-3 that Conte has brought to Chelsea. Can Nacho Monreal and Rob Holding halt the charge if Victor Moses and Pedro? Mirrored on the other flank against Mustafi and Bellerin is Eden Hazard and Marcus Alonso. Of course Arsenal will be a threat going the other way so the reverse applies but either way this is where the game will be won and lost with the Chelsea front 3 stretching and moving that Arsenal back 3/5 around, Hazard in particular is hard to track cutting in and popping up in between the lines so Xhaka and Ramsey will need to be aware. Wenger will also be cautious that Bellerin and Monreal may be overran by the double threat down their respective flanks with Chelsea playing Alonso and Moses high up the pitch with Pedro and Hazard. Will Arsenal look for a high line to counter the threat of the passing range of Fabregas over the top for Costa? Dont doubt that Arsenal will be a threat with Sanchez, Ozil and with Giroud at set pieces.