Chelsea take on Arsenal in the first of this week’s double-header of all-English European finals, a classical example of a London derby in the Europa League final in Baku.
On paper, there’s not a huge amount between these two sides, with both likely to be feeling disappointed with how their seasons went, even if Chelsea at least got that bare minimum requirement of Champions League qualification by finishing third in the Premier League.
Their performances throughout the season have left plenty to be desired, however, and as we edge closer to the big game, it looks like there could be reason to start backing Arsenal to lift the trophy. In fact, we’ve got as many as six reasons for you below. Here’s why you can expect Arsenal to end his first season at Arsenal with silverware…
1) Chelsea injuries
Chelsea will still have a pretty strong team out in Baku that can beat Arsenal on its day, but they will not be helped by some of the big names missing. N’Golo Kante looks unlikely to play, joining Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Antonio Rudiger on the injury list.
Kante’s importance is obvious, while Rudiger has been a regular in Chelsea’s defence this season and will likely be replaced by the unconvincing Andreas Christensen.Further forward, Loftus-Cheek and Hudson-Odoi have not always been regular starters, but have improved a lot as the season’s gone on and found particular joy with opportunities in this competition.
Arsenal don’t have the best midfield in the world, but will fancy their chances a lot more if Kante and Loftus-Cheek aren’t in there as they’ll likely come up against a rather lightweight trio of Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic and Ross Barkley.
2) Chelsea look unsettled
It’s been far from the ideal preparation for the final from Chelsea. Just look at this remarkable video clip below showing a little spat breaking out between David Luiz and Gonzalo Higuain, while manager Maurizio Sarri stormed off the pitch during training.
Tempers fraying in the Chelsea camp? ?
Higuain and Luiz come together in training and Maurizio Sarri is furious! pic.twitter.com/obSZ51KGGd
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) May 28, 2019
While there has since been a fairly innocent explanation put forward by Chelsea, on Sarri’s behaviour at least, it still points towards a manager who’s nervous, and a camp whose team spirit seems to be somewhat lacking.
Pundits Martin Keown and Eidur Gudjohnsen also seemed to think the preparations by CFC players looked ‘rubbish’, with not a lot of particularly intense work going on ahead of this important tie. All we’re saying is, if you’re an Arsenal player watching that tonight, you’ll be feeling that bit more confident about tomorrow night.
3) Maurizio Sarri uncertainty
Even without the incident above, there have been doubts over Sarri’s situation at Chelsea for some time anyway.
The Evening Standard recently reported that several players at the club could look to quit if the former Napoli boss remains in charge next season, while Calciomercato have reported he’s already reached an agreement to become the next Juventus manager. This just does not look like a united squad, with the players seemingly at odds with each other and the man in charge of the team.
4) Emery’s Europa League record
As if you need reminding, but the Spanish tactician has won this trophy a remarkable three times, with his Sevilla side very much a Europa League version of Real Madrid between 2014 and 2016 with three final victories in a row, including a very impressive performance against Liverpool in that 3-1 win three years ago.
While Emery’s overall start to life at the Emirates Stadium hasn’t always been that convincing, he has lived up to his reputation as a strong tactician when it comes to navigating two-legged European ties.
Bizarrely, even while this Gunners outfit were capitulating in the race for fourth in the Premier League, they put in a very convincing display in each leg of their semi-final against Valencia, in contrast to Chelsea struggling past Eintracht Frankfurt and eventually only going through on penalties. In terms of total trophies won, it’s also worrying news for Chelsea, with Emery having ten pieces of silverware to his name in his career, while Sarri has none.
5) Arsenal have the better strikers
Big games like this can be decided on moments of individual quality in attack, or a dreadful mistake in defence. Shkodran Mustafi shouldn’t be starting for Arsenal, so that makes the latter less of a likely worry for them, so it could come down to the quality of the finishing.
Gooners will hope both Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette start in Baku, as they have shown in the Europa League just how clinical they are.
Both were superb in the semi-final win over Valencia, with Aubameyang hitting a brilliant hat-trick with Emery’s side needed it most in that second leg.Chelsea, by contrast, don’t have that kind of goal threat in their side, with Gonzalo Higuain proving a total flop since joining on loan, with even the rather limited Olivier Giroud perhaps the better option, though more for his link-up play with Eden Hazard than his goal threat.
6) Arsenal need it more
If this Chelsea squad already look to be low in morale and perhaps lacking in motivation, that shouldn’t be an issue with Arsenal. The north London giants know they need to win this game to get back into the Champions League, while Chelsea already have that wrapped up after finishing higher in the league.
Of course, Arsenal’s need for Champions League football didn’t particularly help them in the final few games of the Premier League season, but in this one-off fixture the task is that much clearer. Add to that that Emery’s Arsenal have generally looked a little better in the big games than they did in recent years under Arsene Wenger, and you’d expect they could really rise to the occasion here.