Two Years Is A Long Time In Football

Comparing the sides in the last final competed between Arsenal and Chelsea and the likely elevens in Baku

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Same again please: Per Mertesacker lifts the FA Cup after defeating Chelsea back in 2017

Arsenal will face Chelsea in Baku this evening, two years and two days after the last cup final between the two clubs, the 2017 FA Cup Final. Mauritzio Sarri’s side are the clear favourites to win, although those that fancy a punt might have more luck visiting a NJ Online Casino than trying to predict the outcome of this game, remembering it was a similar situation at Wembley. I thought it would be interesting to look at the two teams to see how much has changed.

Although I can’t predict who will line up in Baku, I’ll take the teams that were fielded in the second legs of their respective semi-finals as a guide. The reality is there are unlikely to be too many changes. And it’s probably too late for Sarri and Eden Hazard to have another fallout, which would undoubtedly shorten the Gunners’ odds of winning the trophy.

Arsenal started their second leg in Valencia with a back five – the same formation that Arsene Wenger utilized in the 2017 final. The full line up was Cech – Maitland Niles, Koscielny, Sokratis, Monreal, Kolasinac – Xhaka, Torreira – Ozil – Lacazette, Aubameyang.

Rewind two seasons and at Wembley, Arsenal started with Ospina – Bellerin, Holding, Mertesacker, Monreal, Oxlade-Chamberlain – Ramsey, Xhaka – Ozil, Welbeck, Sanchez. Only three players survive from that line-up, although in fairness, four of them are injured (and none will be fit enough to start the final, although Danny Welbeck could be on the bench). The other four are no longer at the club.

Chelsea have undergone changes too. Against Eintracht Frankfurt, they started Arrizabalaga – Azpilicueta, Christensen, Luiz, Emerson – Loftus-Cheek, Jorginho, Kovacic – Willian, Giroud, Hazard.

Back in 2017, they fielded Courtois – Moses, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill, Alonso – Kante, Matic – Pedro, Costa, Hazard. Once again, three survivors, although four of the Wembley eleven are still at Chelsea, with Courtois, Moses, Matic and Costa now elsewhere.

It’s interesting to reflect that Arsene Wenger’s contract was expiring back in 2017, and the final could have been his farewell game. He’d failed to qualify the club for the Champions League for the first time since 1998, but the fact that Chelsea had won the Premier League that season under Antonio Conte (finishing 18 points ahead of Wenger’s side) meant that Arsenal’s 2-1 victory was a triumph against the odds. And the nature of the performance gave hope that the team could go onto greater things the following season, with Stan Kroenke sufficiently enthused to award the manager a two year extension.

That situation does not apply to Unai Emery. He will get at least another season to progress the team, even if his team leaves Baku without the Europa League trophy. So in that respect, he is under less pressure than Arsene Wenger was. On the other bench, the comparison is not the same. Antonio Conte was riding high, having won the title in his first campaign. Mauritzio Sarri has at least returned the club to the Champions League after a disappointing 2017-18 season (although it did conclude with Conte leading his team to the FA Cup), although there seems to be divisions between himself and the players. Winning a trophy might save his job, and there is also the reality that a new manager coming in would not be allowed to sign any new players until the summer of 2020 due to the club’s two window transfer ban. So although Sarri’s future is more in the balance than Emery’s, he may get another season simply because the club may not be able to recruit a better alternative. And he has got more out of his players than Conte did in his final season.

One thing is certain though. For both sides, the wind of change has made this a very different final from 2017. New managers, a likely 16 players out of 22 that did not start two years ago, and it goes without saying that they will each have much less support in Baku than they did at Wembley. Of course, the decision to hold the final in Azerbaijan another article entirely, and it means for one set of fans, the trip home after a defeat will probably be the longest they will ever make. You want some good news? For the winners, they will face another English side in the Super Cup final on Wednesday 14th August. Much closer to home that one… Istanbul! Oh well, there’s always the air miles to collect.

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  1. markymark

    May 30, 2019, 08:43 #113930

    John F - you make a good point . Dick is a 50 goal conceding man. So it goes on. In the new posting Kevin says approach Max Allegri though he would probably turn us down . I know someone who would get our defence sorted and is currently out of a job and may be willing to start afresh without too many multi billion signings . Yep Maureen! He might want to prove a point and work with the kids

  2. Seven Kings Gooner 1

    May 30, 2019, 07:30 #113929

    Lee Dixon made a very good point at half time, Arsenal need to score first to stand a chance because if Chelsea score first they will see the game out. The collapse, the brittleness, is now the core make up of this side, how you change things I have no idea but hopefully next season 3 - 4 of the promising youngster become regulars. I do wish Willock had scored a goal, he looked a handful and is one of ours.

  3. peter wain

    May 30, 2019, 07:02 #113928

    what a total disaster. we are eight players short of a team. Not one decent defender in the club and too many awful buys which we cannot sell. We need anew goalie and a complete back four but as we are skint I suppose we must look at free transfers. Dick out and take the comic with him.

  4. John F

    May 30, 2019, 07:02 #113927

    I am coming over to your way of thinking Mark regarding Dick.I was making excuses for him due to the personnel he has to work with but his defensive record as a manager is woeful and it looks like continuing.I would say it was a Dic k performance under Dick.I really hope that if he stays in post that he doesn't waste the potential of the young players coming through by blocking their progress with 2nd raters or has beens.

  5. markymark

    May 30, 2019, 06:47 #113926

    Now hungover rather than a drunken post. This is where failing to impose your style of play fails. Unable to score after a good first half . As others said as soon as Chelsea scored it becomes inevitable . Stretched and finished off professionally by Chelsea. It would have been better to play the most boring 2nd half in history and tried to spring them in the last 5 minutes then lose in that manner. It really was a Wenger loss under Dick. Still one good thing is that Stan doesn’t have a sense of humour ( if he was watching ) therefore maybe, just maybe he’ll actually realise what an overhaul job is required . Still wouldn’t bother with Dick though , I’d now hand it to someone else

  6. The Man From UNCLE

    May 30, 2019, 05:38 #113925

    Good grief that must have been up there in the top 5 worst performances in the last 20 years. The lack of belief unbelievable to see. All Chelsea had to do was raise their game 5% and they're 2-0 up. Remember this shambles when that email asking you to renew your season ticket comes in.

  7. markymark

    May 29, 2019, 23:38 #113924

    Horrible to say it but a blessing in disguise. Arsenal had half a dozen chances but imploded much as a game 3rd division team in the FA Cup. I’m not actually labeliing us as 3rd division . We fit between 6th and 4th. Personally I’d sack Emery now just to call an end to the experient. But he will be given next season which will effiectivelly be 10 games. Oh for the old Arsenal who’d lose these games 1-0 I’m suddenly dreaming of Mourinho and I don’t think that’s good

  8. Exiled in Pt

    May 29, 2019, 21:21 #113923

    I am with you 75, if they don't want to put the money in reduce the ticket prices accordingly.. Let's get rid of the shit back the youth and start again certainly not worth a CL place...

  9. Paulo75

    May 29, 2019, 21:17 #113922

    PT - agreed. Bould’s non existent input in defence has improved nothing. Get Tony in as coach to ruffle some feathers and sort this long standing bad joke of a defensive unit out. Winning tonight, with hindsight would have evelevated us beyond where we are in the short term. We are bang average and need a major change of strategy. Over to you our faceless Management and Owners - what’s the script?

  10. Exiled in Pt

    May 29, 2019, 21:17 #113921

    Bigger team as far as European competion goes than us.. Shit club no history not anymore... Let's see if the club and players want to compensate the fans that made their way there to support a club that once were the pride of London...

  11. John F

    May 29, 2019, 21:09 #113920

    Sums up Kronkees Arsenal,a team going nowhere fast with no serious attempt to improve.The only thing that might come out of this is now the funds are going to be limited Dick (if he stays in the job)may just have to play the youngsters rather then mercenary merde foreign imports.We will probably lose our front two now.

  12. Exiled in Pt

    May 29, 2019, 21:05 #113919

    Also let's stop all the talk of Steve Bould let's get Tony Adams into coach the defence.

  13. Exiled in Pt

    May 29, 2019, 21:03 #113918

    The better team won. Willock proved tonight he is good enough to play in an Arsenal shirt. Let's play the youth and build fuck all the talk of poncy European signings. Let's buy a couple of good quality Premier league proven English defenders. Oh yeah and Stan does not want to put money in which is fine so reduce the ticket price to accommodate the standard of football. Happy to give Dick another season but let's build from our youth..

  14. mbg

    May 29, 2019, 20:59 #113917

    Has ever an Arsenal team needed gutting as much as this one ? Pathetic and embarrassing.

  15. Paulo75

    May 29, 2019, 20:44 #113916

    Embarrassing. Sums up the season and where we are as a club. 2/3rds of the squad not up to it - get rid.

  16. mbg

    May 29, 2019, 15:28 #113914

    Let's hope the players listen to the manager when he says he wants to see the true spirit of Arsenal tonight and not the imaginary speeritt there was under Wenger.