A lack of pace at the back could prove to be Arsene Wenger’s undoing, so their best form of defence is to attack
ARSENAL will be without their vice-captain Laurent Koscielny on Saturday after the Frenchman was sent off for a late challenge on Everton’s Enner Valencia last weekend.
It was the French international’s fifth sending off since joining the Gunners back in 2010, which is more than any other player in the same period.
And losing their captain ahead of the Cup final may prove to be a bigger blow than losing their star man Alexis Sanchez, as keeping out the goals has been the Gunners’ Achilles heel this season.
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Wenger’s men have totalled 119 goals in all competitions, more than any other season under the Frenchman, and the most goals scored by the north London club in a campaign post WW2.
However keeping them out at the other end has proved far more of a challenge, conceding 44 goals in a single Premier League season with only 13 clean sheets.
To compound the loss of Koscielny, Brazilian centre-half Gabriel has been ruled out for the next six to eight weeks with knee ligament damage, also picked up during the Everton clash.
And Shkodran Mustafi, a £35m summer signing from Valencia, is a major doubt after failing to recover from a concussion he suffered against Sunderland last Tuesday.
In terms of options, club captain Per Mertesacker made his first appearance of the season against Everton at the weekend, and is in contention to lead the Gunners out in a cup final for the third time in four seasons.
Rob Holding, who has impressed in recent weeks, is likely to continue on the right side of Arsenal’s defence, with Nacho Monreal tucking in on the left side of the back three.
But if Arsenal are forced to play with the above back three, a lack of pace could prove to be a real issue, with the likes of Diego Costa and Eden Hazard lurking, and former Gunners captain Cesc Fabregas pulling the strings from deep.
Personally, I think Arsenal’s best form of defence will be attack this weekend, as well as ensuring
they go like for like formation wise with Chelsea.
Arsene Wenger may be considering switching to a back four after suffering the loss of two key defenders, however the Gunners will need to keep a check on Chelsea’s marauding wing-backs, and the best way to do so will surely be by being on the front foot, keeping them pinned back.
For only the second time in his Arsenal career, Wenger will be going into an FA Cup final as an underdog.
Only against Manchester United in 2005, where his squad was depleted by injuries, has the Gunners boss gone into a cup final not favourite to lift the famous trophy.
And in true Arsene Wenger fashion, I feel he will need to go out on his sword against the Champions, with an emphasis on attack and trying to outscore our opponents, rather than a war of attrition which will surely favour the Blues.
But if somehow the Frenchman can come out on top of his Italian counterpart Antonio Conte, it will mean he will be the greatest FA Cup manager of all time, going one better than the great George Ramsey.
This may buy him the much needed time and grace amongst an ever growing set of frustrated and impatient Arsenal supporters.