Arsenal’s last FA Cup final against Chelsea helped win us the Double… now the Gunners must believe they CAN stop the Blues doing the same


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THE last time these two clubs met in an FA Cup final was back in 2002 and the roles were reversed — it was us going for the Double.

The only difference was, we hadn’t won the league at that point because the Cup final was played a week before the end of the season.

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Thierry Henry won the FA Cup and Premier League with Arsenal in 2002

We still had Man United to come in midweek at Old Trafford and Everton on the last weekend.

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But we were focused on doing the job and winning that Cup — especially as we had missed out the year before to Liverpool.

Man, how we did not win that one, I’ll never know.

Anyway, the club had won the Double in 1998 and then they were so close to winning it again in 1999.

Freddie Ljungberg curled in a spectacular effort to put Arsenal in the lead against Chelsea

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Freddie Ljungberg curled in a spectacular effort to put Arsenal in the lead against Chelsea
Antonio Conte talks all things Chelsea and looks ahead to The FA Cup final

If Dennis Bergkamp had scored his penalty in the FA Cup semi-final against Man United at Villa Park, I think they would have done.

So there was massive expectation on that new team to deliver something.

In 2000, we were nowhere and 2001 wasn’t much better, so doing the Double in 2002 was huge. It stopped that Man U run.

But it mainly put a statement out that we were doing something right and it rewarded all the effort. It’s all very well playing beautiful football and making people smile and being a nice guy.

But we wanted to have something to show for it.

The actual final is not individually a good memory.

After about ten minutes Frank Lampard landed on me with all his body weight going through my leg and damaging the tendon on the inside of my knee. I couldn’t control the ball, I couldn’t sprint.

The FA Cup was Arsenal's first trophy in their quest for the Double

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The FA Cup was Arsenal’s first trophy in their quest for the Double

I couldn’t be at my best. But there was no way I was coming off.

I had to grit my teeth. It would have to have been something extraordinary for me not to play on.

I eventually came off with about ten minutes to go I think.

But the most important thing was that we won as a team.

The injury meant I couldn’t play when we beat Man U to win the title and I shouldn’t really have played against Everton on the last weekend.

Anyway, we won a tight final with two amazing goals from Freddie Ljungberg and Ray Parlour.

Chelsea just had to take it — the goals were that good.

At the time, Chelsea just couldn’t beat us . . . of course, that was all to change. They were just starting to be loud so it was good to set them back a bit then.

There was no huge party after the game because we had that massive game at Old Trafford.

It doesn’t change my life not partying, the most important thing was to win the Cup.

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Arsenal ran out 2-0 winners after Ray Parlour doubled the Gunners lead

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Arsenal ran out 2-0 winners after Ray Parlour doubled the Gunners lead

And we were able to celebrate with the fans on the pitch.

Everyone expects Chelsea to seal the Double this weekend and, of course, they are strong and flying after their season.

Arsenal, on the other hand, have injuries and suspensions — but you never know in football.

I cannot stop thinking about the 2005 Cup final when we beat Manchester United on penalties.

I was injured and we had other players not fully fit. And they had beaten us twice already in the league that season.

And wow, they battered us. They deserved to win it five times over.

But we hung on and won on penalties. Anything can happen today.

Injuries and suspensions should not be an excuse, that is just how it is.

Conte offers support for Wenger ahead of final FA Cup showdown

Chelsea are now looking to complete the double when they face Arsenal

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Chelsea are now looking to complete the double when they face Arsenal

You have to deal with it. It’s been proven that you can win without being at full strength.

Arsenal can remember the league game this term when they hammered Chelsea 3-0 at the Emirates.

However, that was a totally different Chelsea. But Arsenal can take some inspiration from how Tottenham and United have beaten the Blues during the second half of the season.

It proves you can beat them if you have a go. It will be interesting to see if Arsenal are brave, possess the ball and try to dominate.

Do they play with wing-backs high and wide or will the wing-backs be too low?

It depends on how they are set up, how they approach the game.

Eden Hazard could be the man to fire Chelsea to the Double

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Eden Hazard could be the man to fire Chelsea to the Double

Of course, sometimes the game dictates how you will be but they have to start with a positive mindset.

For Arsenal, it’s more about winning something than stopping Chelsea.

Silverware will not gloss over the league season but it’s about trophies.

If they win, it might be Per Mertesacker lifting the Cup.

He’s a great leader, determined. The dressing room trusts him.

He reminds me of Jens Lehmann. He will tell you how it is, like it or not, if it’s for the good of the team.

He’s captain for a reason. Arsene Wenger must think he’s good enough to do a job or he wouldn’t be there.

But it’s not about Per. The whole team has to be ready and buying into the plan and the philosophy of how Arsenal want to play.

Wenger says Arsenal are ‘not favourites’ in the FA Cup final against Chelsea

Per Mertesacker is likely to start in a back three for Arsenal against Chelsea

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Per Mertesacker could be the man to lift the trophy if Arsenal beat Chelsea

How are we in transition, off the ball, on the ball?

It doesn’t matter who is missing, who is playing. This is how we play.

Look at Chelsea in the semi-final. They had a system and Antonio Conte was able to leave out Eden Hazard and Diego Costa and they still won.

Everyone said, ‘Wow, is he throwing the game, does he not want to win?’

But the collective is more important than the individual.

They were all on the same hymn sheet that day.

It will be interesting to see which team is more in tune today.

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