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FA Cup Final: Arsenal’s Defensive Woes Suggest a High-Scoring Affair at Wembley

ARSENAL

It’s been another season of disappointment for Arsenal fans, with the team’s all too familiar mid-season slump ultimately costing them the chance of qualifying for Champions League football next season. Their fifth place finish marked their worst league return since Arsène Wenger’s arrival to the club back in 1996, and it has cast serious doubts over whether he is the right man to take Arsenal forward.

The Frenchman’s contract with the club is due to expire this summer, but if rumours in the press are to be believed, it’s likely that he will sign a two-year extension. While the doubts over Wenger’s future have cast a shadow over goings-on at the Emirates for the last six months, the main question on fans’ lips heading into the summer is whether or not star man Alexis Sanchez is set to depart.

Despite all of their off the field problems, Arsenal have won seven of their last eight Premier League matches. Their return to form coincided with Wenger’s decision to switch to three at the back, but with Laurent Koscielny suspended, Gabriel injured and Shkodran Mustafi a doubt with a concussion, it remains to be seen whether the Frenchman will be forced into a re-think for Saturday’s match.

CHELSEA

Since their last-gasp winner to clinch the title at The Hawthorns two weeks ago, there’s been a celebratory mood around Stanford Bridge. Perhaps nothing better encapsulated this than John Terry’s 26th-minute substitution during their final league game of the season. The Chelsea captain, who is leaving his boyhood club at the end of the season, was given a guard of honour by his teammates while walking off the pitch.

While that celebration may have left a sour taste in the mouth of some football fans, few can argue against the Blues coming out on top of this year’s domestic league. The arrival of manager Antonio Conte during the summer has seen the club pick up an additional 43 points in comparison to last season. They come into Saturday’s final in fine form too, having won their last seven games in all competitions.

Unlike their opponents, the Blues have been able to rest several key players during their final few league games. With no new injuries worries to concern him, Conte will have to choose between N’Golo Kante, Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic for his central midfield pairing.

MATCH ODDS

Considering the clear disparity between the two teams in the league this season, it’s little surprise to see Chelsea priced as short as 1.84 to come out on top in Saturday’s showpiece event. The club has gone on to lift the trophy in 11 of the 18 finals they have played in since their inception in 1905.

While the league table might not be on their side, Arsenal fans can take some comfort from the fact that their team has won their last five FA Cup finals, including a 2-0 over their opponents on Saturday in 2002. Wenger’s men can also take confidence from their 3-0 over Chelsea at the Emirates back in September. These reasons, combined with their fine end-of-season form, makes 4.95 seem like a generous price for the Gunners to upset the odds on Saturday.

OVER/UNDER 2.5 GOALS

Although finals are usually cagey affairs, the two meetings between the clubs this season have both gone over the 2.5-goal mark. With Arsenal suffering from an injury crisis at the back, it’s likely that attack will form the best line of defence for the Gunners in Saturday’s final, making over 2.5 at odds of 1.82 a sensible bet.

TO SCORE

Eden Hazard scored a remarkable solo goal when the two teams met at Stanford Bridge in January. Against a makeshift Arsenal backline and with appealing odds (5.0), it’s hard not to fancy the Belgium international to add to his goal tally against the Gunners this season.

RECOMMENDED BETS

Back BTTS at 1.9
Back the draw at 3.9

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