In what will be a repeat of last year’s Europa League final, these five players could be the difference between winning and losing for their respective teams.
Hostilities will resume when Chelsea battle Arsenal in the all-London FA Cup final at Wembley on Sunday.
The two local rivals battled in the Europa League final last season and it was Chelsea who emerged victorious with a 4-1 thrashing of Unai Emery’s side in what was Eden Hazard’s farewell game for the Blues.
Despite it being just 13 months since that final, both teams will head into the contest with new managers at the helm. Chelsea appointed Frank Lampard after Maurizio Sarri’s departure back home to Italy and Arsenal sacked Emery midway through the current season and poached Mikel Arteta from Manchester City to lead them into the future.
It won’t only be the managers but also a few new faces who weren’t part of that Europa League final that will take centre-stage on Sunday. We take a look at the five players who could impact their team’s trophy aspirations in the FA Cup final.
Arsenal skipper Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be the Gunners’ go-to man on Sunday in the final.
The Gabonese has struck 68 goals for Arsenal since joining them in January 2018 from Borussia Dortmund and been the silver lining in a rather poor spell for the club. Aubameyang scored twice in the semifinal against Manchester City in Arsenal’s surprise 2-0 win over the defending champions.
He was on target against Chelsea at the Emirates and gave his side the lead, but the much-maligned Arsenal defence conceded two sloppy goals in quick succession and the Gunners lost 2-1.
The Arsenal captain will be eager to score a goal or two and lift the FA Cup on Sunday, his first with the Gunners.
The American wonder kid has been a revelation for Chelsea this season. Pulisic has scored nine goals in his debut campaign with the Blues and has delivered some brilliant performances over the course of the season.
Like Aubameyang, Pulisic arrived from Dortmund and was touted to be Eden Hazard’s replacement at the club. The youngster hasn’t let the pressure of expectation bog his performances and has been immense for Frank Lampard’s men over the course of the season. Pulisic has been in top form since the return of football post-lockdown and scored goals against Manchester City and Liverpool.
The American is in red hot form and will be the Blues’ biggest threat in attack in the final.
The Frenchman was on his way out of Stamford Bridge in the January transfer window, with Inter Milan and Tottenham Hotspur chasing his signature. However, an injury to Tammy Abraham meant that Giroud stayed put and Chelsea coach Frank Lampard will be counting his lucky stars that he did.
Giroud has scored six goals in his last seven matches and was on target in Chelsea’s 3-1 win over Manchester United in the FA Cup semi-final. He also opened the scoring in Baku in last year’s Europa League final and assisted one of Hazard’s two second-half goals.
The 33-year-old was let go after Arsenal acquired Aubameyang from Dortmund and he’ll be gunning to pip his former side in another cup final.
The Brazilian’s season with Arsenal has been nothing short of a calamity.
Luiz conceded five penalties in the Premier League this season - a new record - and has been constantly called out for his atrocious performance since signing for Arsenal in the 2019 summer transfer window. Arteta’s lack of options at the back means that Luiz will start the final against the club that he represented up until last season and another lapse by the 33-year-old could be all that it takes for Chelsea to win the FA Cup.
Alongside Manchester United’s Sergio Romero, Chelsea’s Willy Caballero is perhaps the most accomplished backup keeper plying his trade in the Premier League. The 38-year-old became the temporary first choice at Manchester City in 2016/17 and moved to London to join Chelsea in 2017.
The Argentine became a cult hero after his heroics against Liverpool in the 2016 League Cup final, where he saved three penalties in the shootout to help City win the cup. Caballero has seen his playing time go up quite a bit this season, as Kepa Arizzabalaga’s disastrous form forced manager Frank Lampard’s hand to play the experienced keeper. He was in goal this past weekend in Chelsea’s all-important 2-0 win over Wolves that secured their Champions League status for next season and will be the man between the sticks on Sunday.
Caballero has already won the FA Cup with Chelsea back in 2018 and will be keen to add another winner’s medal to his cabinet.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Phil Noble
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