Arsenal have been hit by a defensive crisis ahead of the FA Cup final and it has caused the odds on them to drift out. Laurent Koscielny is suspended, Gabriel is injured and Shkodran Mustafi could also miss out, so the Gunners will be threadbare and patched up at the back. Since that crisis broke, odds on Chelsea have gone in from 10/11 to 4/5 and have gone as low as 3/4 with some bookmakers. Arsenal meanwhile have drifted out to 4.50.
It is a shame for Arsenal fans because they could have approached this game with serious optimism were it not for this defensive predicament. It was all looking miserable after they slumped to a 3-0 defeat against Crystal Palace a couple of months ago, but Arsene Wenger switched to a new system with three at the back and high energy full-backs – a mirroring of the tactics that have served Chelsea so well this season – and was rewarded with a huge upturn in form. The Gunners went on to win seven of their remaining eight league games and knocked Man City out in the semi-finals of this competition. They have been more solid defensively, and the wing-backs have freed up Alexis Sanchez to wreak havoc going forwards.
But as it is Arsenal will likely be in for a torrid afternoon. Chelsea famously switched to the three at the back system after losing 3-0 to Arsenal at The Emirates back in September, and went on a fantastic winning run. They led the league for most of the season and won it at a canter. One highlight was gaining sweet revenge on Arsenal by beating them 3-1 at Stamford Bridge. Eden Hazard tore through their feeble backline on that day and will relish the chance of doing so against this weakened defence on the big stage this weekend.
Of course, anything can happen. Diego Costa could get sent off and the whole picture of the game will shift. But Chelsea are deserved favourites and should go on to win it. You can expect N’Golo Kante to boss the midfield, and Chelsea’s forwards should see plenty of the ball. Costa will put Arsenal’s inexperienced defence under great pressure. We could see an Arsenal back three of Rob Holding, who lacks experience, Nacho Monreal, a left-back with poor aerial ability, and either an ill Mustafi or Per Mertesacker, who is dreadfully short of match fitness. Or Arsenal will revert to two centre-backs, and would then have to go into the biggest game of their season with Monreal and Holding as a pairing to strike fear into Gooners’ hearts.
It is very much conceivable that Chelsea will score more than once. Chelsea to get over 1.5 goals is 3.25 with Bet365 and Bet Victor and that looks an intriguing option. Both teams to score and the over 2.5 goals also looks good at 2.10 with Boyle Sports. Arsenal may struggle defensively but you can expect them to score too as Sanchez has been lethal and Arsenal always create chances. A lot could depend on the line-ups. If Conte partners Kante with Cesc Fabregas, it will be an open game and more goals are likely. If Kante lines up alongside Nemanja Matic, it will be a more defensive Chelsea side that will not create as many chances, but that will also yield far fewer chances, so it might be advisable to wait until the team sheets are released before placing a stake. Either way, Chelsea look pretty good value at 1.80 with most green listed bookmakers as they have been the dominant team in the land this season, and Arsenal are missing key players.