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Wenger vying to be the competition's most successful manager and the FA Cup final talking points

Chelsea are hoping to make it a league/cup double against Arsenal, who are facing a defensive crisis.

Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez and N'Golo Kante of Chelsea.
Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez and N'Golo Kante of Chelsea.
Image: PA Archive/PA Images

1. Chelsea on for the double

AFTER SEALING THE Premier League title two weeks ago, Chelsea are chasing a double at Wembley Stadium on Saturday (5.30pm).

Victory over Arsenal would see Antonio Conte emulate the achievements of Carlo Ancelotti by leading the club to English football’s two major trophies in his first season.

In contrast, the Gunners have just missed out on the top four for the first time in 21 years and FA Cup success will only act as a consolation for their frustrated fans — many of whom believe Arsene Wenger should step down.

But victory for the Frenchman, whose future beyond this weekend has to be revealed, would put his name into the record books as the first manager to win the competition seven times.

Conte has yet to get his hands on a major cup since going into management but he did win the Coppa Italia as a player in 1995 — beating Parma over two legs in the final.

2. Gunners hit with defensive crisis

A moment of madness from Laurent Koscielny on the final day of the season has left Arsenal really struggling at centre-back.

The Frenchman was shown a straight red card for a mindless lunge at Toffees striker Enner Valencia last Sunday, and he misses out through suspension after an appeal to rescind the card was rejected.

To make matters worse, fellow defender Gabriel came off with a knee injury in the same game and the Brazilian is also unavailable. With Shkodran Mustafi a major doubt due to concussion, Wenger may be forced to call upon fellow German Per Mertesacker.

He made his first appearance of the season against Everton after recovering from a long-term knee problem, but throwing him into the starting line-up would be a considerable gamble — as would picking the inexperienced Rob Holding, which is a realistic alternative.

Whoever starts in defence, they will have quite the job on their hands keeping an attack that includes Eden Hazard and Diego Costa quiet.


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3. History bodes well for Arsenal

Chelsea quite rightly go into the game as significant favourites, but it was Arsenal who came out on top on the one previous occasion that the clubs met in the FA Cup final.

Arsenal v Chelsea Tony Adams and Patrick Vieira lift the FA Cup trophy in 2002. Source: PA Archive/PA Images

Back in 2002, Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium hosted the London pair while Wembley was being redeveloped. Second half goals from Ray Parlour and Freddie Ljungberg were enough as the Gunners saw off Claudio Ranieri’s side.

Their head-to-head record this season reads one win each. A 3-0 home victory at the Emirates back in September was seen as the turning point for Conte’s season as he switched to 3-4-3 after that loss and then went on a 13-game winning streak.

When the reverse fixture came around five months later, there was no stopping Chelsea and they dished out a 3-1 defeat to Arsenal at Stamford Bridge.

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Ben Blake

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