The FA Cup is a pretty big deal. With the Premier League more competitive than ever, any silverware should be celebrated wildly – just ask Tottenham.
But this FA Cup final between Arsenal and Chelsea is bigger for us.
Firstly, our new coach has the chance to lay down a huge marker with a trophy in his first season.
Secondly, last season’s Europa League final drubbing still lingers in the memory.
And lastly, our season has been a pretty underwhelming one. While we have shown definite signs of promise since Arteta began instilling his philosophy, we obtained our lowest position since 1995.
So this Cup Final could really heal some ills.
All week on The Arsenal Review, we have looked at different battles on the pitch and variables that could swing the favour our way during those important 90 minutes.
We looked at the midfield tussle between Xhaka and Jorginho. Then we focused on David Luiz facing off against Christian Pulisic. And yesterday, it was Aubameyang taking on Antonio Rudiger.
What is one real deciding factor for this game is how each keeper will perform.
Which goalie will come out on top?
Chelsea’s goalkeeping conundrum is one obvious weakness. Kepa Arrizabalaga cost the Blues a handsome amount of money and has gotten steadily worse. This season, he has finished bottom of all statistics relating to goalkeepers. He has been flaky with shot-stopping, coming for crosses – ask any Blues fan about their thoughts on Kepa!
Which is why it was Willy Caballero, the Chelsea Number 2, that played in the FA Cup semi-final – and the Spaniard was resolute in goal.
Caballero could well get the nod, signalling the end of Kepa’s career at Stamford Bridge. One thing to note about Caballero – he may be good, but he is well known for his penalty saving. If this one goes the distance – it could be advantage Chelsea.
Then we come to Emi Martinez. Our longest-standing player. The journeyman who has been on numerous loans and bided his time patiently for his chance.
Standing in his way is two-time Arsenal Player of the Year Nominee, Bernd Leno. The German has been outstanding in his time at Arsenal and this season especially, has been worth more than a few points thanks to his heroics.
His injury was unfortunate, but Martinez has not looked back and his command of his box, his shot-stopping – pretty much every aspect of his game has been flawless. Martinez has taken his chance with both hands – excuse the goalkeeping pun – and Bernd Leno may now be in full training, but every Gooner would argue that Martinez deserves his chance in the Final.
On the face of it, if Kepa plays, we could have a boost from the first minute.
If Caballero plays, we still have the better keeper, but we best get the job done inside the regulation time, because Willy Caballero is a penalty specialist.
Emi, it’s on you.