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Tactical Points from Arsenal’s triumphant FA Cup victory over Chelsea

By Vinay Shankar (Tactical Analyst)

An incredible win after what has been one of the worst seasons in the club’s recent history:


· Both teams were always going to match up formations and, much like the 2017 cup final, it came down to the little things. In both these finals, both Arsenal and Chelsea matched each other man-to-man so it was always going to come down to movement and exploitation of space to win the game.


· Arsenal just didn’t settle until the first half drinks break and Chelsea exploited the gaps between Arsenal’s midfield and defence to create a few openings. Mount and Pulisic stayed just off Giroud, waiting for the flick-on and run at Arsenal’s defence which caused Arsenal a lot of problems, evident in the conceding of the first goal.


· When Arsenal had the ball, their tactical shape was very different from recent games, especially the positions taken up by Maitland-Niles in the left-wing back position. Tierney hugged the touchline while AMN slotted into midfield to give the extra man there. AMN’s movement was also causing Chelsea problems as he was breaking the offside trap with his deep runs rather than the forwards. In fact, AMN was the one offside in the build-up to the Pepe offside goal.


· After the drinks break, Arsenal’s midfield got into the game more by pressuring their counterparts into mistakes and building via the flanks.


· Aubameyang’s constant movement really rattled the Chelsea backline and Arsenal used every opportunity to drop the ball in behind. Pepe’s crosses to the far post were another prominent feature of Arsenal’s play in this period but they failed to capitalise.


· After half-time, Chelsea targeted Holding’s lack of pace down the right side as the defender was caught out on multiple occasions and struggled to keep up. If it weren’t for Pulisic’s injury, the Englishman could have been in serious trouble.


· The key to minimising Giroud’s impact is to win the second ball quickly and Arsenal learnt their lesson from the first goal as they closed the spaces and recovered possession.


· The last 20 odd minutes were all about keeping the shape but Arsenal’s ability to exploit the numerical advantage has to get much better to keep things in control and tire out the opponent.


· All in all, a very solid performance highlighted by the fact that Chelsea didn’t have a shot on target after the 10-minute mark. There were elements of luck involved during the game but if you want to win a cup final, you need to make your luck and take full advantage.

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