FA Cup Final 2017
So how are your nerves this evening? Mine are totally shot. I've been getting that churning feeling in my stomach whenever I've thought about the FA Cup Final since about Thursday last week. It's not so much the anticipation as the fear of losing - it's a one off and only winning will do. Arsenal having a distinct lack of central defenders only makes the sense of foreboding even worse really.
This could well be the final game for Arsene Wenger as Arsenal Manager. Whatever we all think about him it would be perfect if tomorrow was his last match and he was to go out on a high with the FA Cup in his hands at Wembley. There is no doubt we are capable of beating Conte's Chelsea - we thrashed them early on in the season. At the same time, they are the best side in this country by a mile and they also have the ability to hammer us. Quite how Arsenal deal with Eden Hazard and Diego Costa will surely be key on the day. Back at our place earlier in the campaign Costa was targeted for close attention by Koscielny from the off - not in the shape of fouling, but simply being so close to him that Costa never had space to get on the ball and bring his midfield in to the game. He is totally crucial to the way Chelsea play. In the absence of Koscielny then one of our centre-backs has to be tasked with the same job. As far as Hazard goes we have a problem there. He will play, nominally at least, from the left. With our three at the back (regardless of injury/suspension Wenger surely must stick with it?!) he will have space on the outside of Rob Holding to attack. Amid all the good stuff that Holding has produced he is scarily susceptible to anyone going at him on the outside. Whoever is the right wing-back may find their attacking opportunities stunted if we are to be tactically astute enough to protect the youngster against Hazard. My preference would be for Oxlade-Chamberlain to come back in on the right as he appears to be fit, regardless of Bellerin officially being a full-back - Hector is largely defensively inept and relies on his pace which will have no effect if out of position when Hazard gets the ball.
The need to defend properly brings me on to another part of our team. If Mertesacker doesn't play then you would have to really make Ramsey the skipper (it seems certain that Ospina is going to play ahead of Petr Cech). However, I believe we need to have Coquelin and Xhaka in the midfield to stymie Chelsea rather than Ramsey. Coquelin really set the tone at Stoke a couple of weeks ago with two big tackles inside the first minute - if he was to do that tomorrow it could put Chelsea immediately on the back foot. As underdogs we have to try and establish an early upper-hand against a superior opposition.
Up front I would far prefer to see Alexis through the middle putting pressure on what I consider to be a weak pair of Cahill and Luiz, regardless of their results this season. When Sanchez ran at Cahill earlier in the season he was found wanting, as he was against Lukaku and Kane as well. This would see, for me, Danny Welbeck playing from the left with Ozil having a more free role to hopefully put his stamp on a big game at last. He more than owes us a performance against major opposition and tomorrow represents the opportunity for Ozil to show once and for all he is a World Class talent. As much as I've talked about our defensive responsibilities tomorrow, it is our attacking threat that can win the game for us. In recent games chance after chance has been created, but not taken. Tomorrow has to be the day when Arsenal are clinical in front of goal. We must press the ball high up the pitch, put pressure on Chelsea in midfield, and attack with pace.
Arsenal can win tomorrow. We have to believe that. I don't do predictions but I'd love Oxlade-Chamerlain and Coquelin to cover the Parlour and Ljungberg roles tomorrow with a straight repeat of 2002. I'm going with both my sons tomorrow and I really hope my youngest gets to see his first "in the flesh" silverware,
COME ON ARSENAL