Here we are the showpiece event of the English Football season and it is an all London affair later this evening as Arsenal in what could be Arsene Wenger’s last game in charge of The Gunners take on a Chelsea side looking to complete the double in Antonio Conte’s first season at the Stamford Bridge helm in the F.A Cup Final.
For Arsenal it is a chance to at least rid some of the disappointment that finishing 5th in the Premier League has bought, the fact that they will have to play in the Europa League next season has not gone down all that well with their fans and failure to beat Chelsea will undoubtedly raise their ire further.
If this is to be Wenger’s last game as Arsenal manager then a 3rd F.A. Cup success in just four seasons would allow the 67 year old to at least go out on a relative high but even if he was to foil Chelsea’s attempt at winning the double then it would perhaps be too little too late in what has been a season of stagnation.
It was certainly too little too late for the players as a run of four straight league wins at the end of the campaign still saw them edged out by Liverpool in the race for 4th by a solitary point. Once again the Arsenal players only really seemed to turn it on when the major prizes had been awarded.
The perceived halting of progress for Arsenal not just in this season but over the past few years has been all too much for an ever growing portion of the Gunners fanbase with many calling for him to leave regardless if the club do end up with another addition to their trophy cabinet.
Look across to West London though and things could not be more different as Chelsea won the title at a canter, Tottenham did at least keep interesting for the neutrals out there but in all fairness it was going to be a case of when and not if they won the Premier League title.
For Antonio Conte to come in and do what he has done in just one season has arguably exceeded even his own expectations, many felt that they would comfortably be in the top four but Chelsea were relentless en route to regaining the crown the meekly surrendered during the previous campaign.
And what better way to cap off such an impressive debut season than to add the F.A. Cup to the league title which was secured at West Brom just over a fortnight ago when £33m Michy Batshuyai came off the bench to score the game’s solitary goal of the evening.
Batshuyai will undoubtedly be knocking on the door for inclusion from the start this evening as his run of game time in the past few weeks has seen him register four goals in just three matches. The Belgian has been a peripheral figure this season but he now found his feet at this level and could be unleashed against Arsenal.
If Conte reverts to type and starts with Diego Costa then it could well be the final game he plays in a Chelsea shirt with the rumours of a move to the Chinese Super League refusing to go away the Spanish international may well be looking to end his time at Stamford Bridge by adding a cup winners medal to his already impressive list of accolades
It could very well be a game of final’s not just because of the stage of the competition that we are in but because Arsenal still have not resolved the issues regarding their two contract rebels Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, with just over a year remaining on their contracts we are now approaching a make or break Summer.
Refusal from either or even both star players to sign a new contract would mean that they are available to walk away from The Emirates for free next year, that surely will not be a chance that the Arsenal hierarchy are willing to take and if pen is not put to paper then an Arsenal exit looks all the more likely.
The likely scenario though is that they will sign a contract once they know the status of Arsene Wenger but it just goes to show how the uncertainty which has mired the club over the past season has been to the clubs massive detriment.
Another thing that has been to their detriment is for use of a better word stupidity from their players, that was none more evident than last Sunday when Laurent Koscielny was sent off for reckless tackle on Enner Valencia of Everton. A red card which subsequently means that the French international will miss the final later this evening.
Also set to miss out for Arsenal is fellow centre back Gabriel who also tackled Enner Valencia but this time came out worse off and ending up injury himself, with Arsenal very short at the back it could mean a surprise recall for elder statesman Per Mertesacker.
Chelsea’s elder statesman John Terry is unlikely to feature in Chelsea’s starting eleven after getting his big send off last Sunday at Stamford Bridge. To say it was a low key send off could be nothing further from the truth as he was given a mid game guard of honour.
The only real selection headache that Chelsea manager Antonio Conte will have is whether or not to go with Willian in the starting eleven. It was the Brazilian international whose brace of goals played a massive part in getting the better of Tottenham in the Semi Final.
He will go head to head with Pedro in the last remaining Chelsea berth with the rest of the starting eleven looking as you would expect. For Arsenal the big decision that Arsene Wenger has to make is to either start with Danny Welbeck or Oliver Giroud up at the top of their attack line.
The only big decision I have to make is who will go onto win, you can never say never in a cup final and Arsenal were written off in the Semi Final against Manchester City but Chelsea’s domination has been all too apparent and I think it will be a double in Antonio Conte’s first season in charge. Blue is the colour at Wembley.