Next weekend sees the final of the oldest club football competition in the world take place as the 136th FA Cup Final takes place at Wembley. What started out with 736 teams has come down to a fixture between the Premier League Champions Chelsea and the most successful FA Cup team in history Arsenal.
Almost 90,000 fans will pack into Wembley next Saturday for the showpiece tournament that started way back on August 5th last year, and has involved 154 matches and produced 484 goals.
The situations couldn’t be any different for the 2 managers involved…
Chelsea’s manager Antonio Conte arrived at a team that had hugely underperformed the season previous – defending their Premier League Title they made an awful start to the season winning only 5 of the first 19 games – a run that saw legendary manager Jose Mourinho lose his job. They improved in the second half of the season under caretaker manager Guus Hiddink to finish 10th, but the season was seen as a huge disappointment on the whole.
Under the Italian Conte however they have looked a completely different side this season. They hit the ground running and have never looked back, and but for a spirited effort by Tottenham they could well have had the title wrapped up by March. They broke through the 90 points barrier, and providing they win their final game of the season will be the first team in Premier League history to win 30 games in a season.
With no games in Europe for them this season this is about as good as it could have gotten for the Italian.
In contrast the Arsenal manager however has endured the toughest season of his 20 year plus career at the club. It did start well – after an opening day defeat they went 14 games unbeaten, but then only 8 wins in their next 18 games (which included 8 defeats), and an elimination in the Champions League via a 10-2 aggregate mauling by Bayern Munich saw a lot of fans start protesting that the Frenchman’s time was done at the club.
It’s divided the fans as to whether they want him to stay or go, as this is a guy that has brought 3 Premier League Titles and 6 FA Cups to the club, but the fact that he is out of contract at the end of the season has added fuel to the fire that the FA Cup match could be the last of his career with Arsenal.
Arsenal’s route to the final has seen them dispose of Preston, Southampton, Sutton, Lincoln, and Manchester City in the Semi Final, whereas Chelsea run has seen them defeat Peterborough, Brentford, Wolves, Man United, and Tottenham in the Semi Finals.
The teams have met once previously in the final with Arsenal winning 2-0 in the 2002 showpiece.
They have a total of 19 FA Cup victories combined, with Chelsea having earned 7 and Arsenal a joint record 12 (with Man United), so if Arsenal do come out on top they will become the most successful team in competition history.
If that does happen in turn it will make Arsene Wenger the most successful manager in the competitions history too, as as previously mentioned he has won the trophy 6 times already (a record he currently holds with the late George Ramsey of Aston Villa).
You can watch the final live at 5:30 pm on May 27th on BBC 1 and BT Sport.
For any further information please head on over the FA’s website here and Wembley Stadium’s here.