Arsenal v Chelsea FA Cup final: Soccer Saturday pundit Charlie Nicholas previews Wembley clash with season assessment

Soccer Saturday pundit Charlie Nicholas gives his thought to Sporting Life

Soccer Saturday pundit Charlie Nicholas assesses Arsenal's season before previewing their FA Cup final clash v Chelsea at Wembley.

How would you rate Arsenal’s season as a whole?

Alexandre Lacazette celebrate his goal against West Ham with his Arsenal teammates

In general terms, very disappointing. I have a bit more hope because I believe Mikel Arteta knows where the problems lie. I don’t know if he will deserve enormous credit for that - Arsene knew where the problems were but, by the time he did, it was about spending ridiculous money on defenders that were not good enough.

I do feel sorry for Rob Holding as it looks like he may go. It is a hard education being a defender at Arsenal, as they are taught more about having the ball than not, and that certainly did not help Holding.

I look at Hector Bellerin’s progress, who was in the Barcelona academy, but he looks as though he cannot play in that particular way. For most of us it seems so evident.



Unai Emery was given a position of power and never amended the defence. His buying was poor but then that leads me to ask...who was doing the buying?

We started spending money on disappointing players and that has been the trend and pattern for years.

They need a change of attitude, and a change of approach. Does he want those to be his centre backs?

They weren’t good enough the first time and they aren’t good enough now. David Luiz is still not the best defender at Arsenal and that means the standard is not right. If he comes into the team, he should be spare centre back.

William Saliba will come in and hopefully improve it. Another centre back alongside would be decent to improve it too.

Luiz is nothing more than a squad player. He is a good guy but that counts for nothing if you are playing with mistakes in you, and the youngsters will pick up bad habits.

David Luiz: Nothing more than a squad player, says Charlie Nicholas

Sead Kolasinac will stay, while Kieran Tierney has improved the balance and at present, he could develop into a fine left back.

The two goalkeepers are making me happy, while the midfield is fine - Dani Ceballos will stay and Arsenal will get rid of Mesut Ozil. Henrikh Mkhitaryan is on loan again and there are interested parties in our midfield players.

Granit Xhaka seems to have turned heads but not in terms of Arsenal fans, I don’t think. He will be permanently bad news. Arsenal could then look for another centre midfielder.

We have more than enough up front if we keep Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. I feel there is a better chance of that, he looks more content.

Gabriel Martinelli is still to come back from a long-term injury, while Eddie Nketiah will score too and has done well coming in. I want Lacazette to stay unless we get a big offer.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: Charlie Nicholas is confident the Arsenal forward will stay

Arsenal do need more from Nicolas Pepe, but Bukayo Saka has been a star. All in all, we need two centre-backs, a midfield player and seven or eight players that we can move on next year.

If we win the FA Cup it will still not be stand out season, but it will be a big achievement under Arteta.

Players were scared to get on the ball but that has changed, yet it is the least amount of matches Arsenal have won in a Premier League season. If we win the FA Cup I will be chuffed, but it does not make the season right.

It has been a disappointing season but they can rectify that by picking up the cup.

  • Arsenal season rating: 5/10

Arsenal vs Chelsea FA Cup final

  • Where do you think the game can be won and lost on Saturday? The importance of Kieran Tierney…
Mikel Arteta's Arsenal face Frank Lampard's Chelsea in the FA Cup final

It will be decided in the wide areas again. Arsenal’s key position is in those wide areas. People are already raving about Kieran Tierney, and he is yet to hit top form yet.

The hardest thing for him, and I know this first hand, is when you go from Celtic to Arsenal it can be difficult to adapt. At Celtic you are so used to winning and it suddenly feels awkward when you are losing games. He has had some injuries so it has not been overkill in defeats, but that will be hardest thing for Tierney to overcome.

You then have to question whether it is you who is doing something wrong, or is it the team? It is the structure of the team.

Tierney is powerful, dynamic, and his final ball will get better, and he will do this if he keeps getting asked to get there and meet those high standards. He takes no prisoners with his defensive responsibilities either. He could be a better left back but that is part of his education.

Celtic dominated with 80 per cent of the ball in the Scottish Premiership so he did not have to defend and that will take time.

Bellerin is not the best full back but he is good going forward. He is not hitting the byline as much but I do see promising things. Dani Ceballos has the energy in midfield and is the supplier.

  • Arsenal in attack...
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette: Could cause Chelsea problems, says Charlie Nicholas

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette will cause a heap of problems - if Chelsea opt for a back four I would be rubbing my hands.

I would leave Nicolas Pepe out and start Bukayo Saka. He has dynamic pace and would cause problems for the Chelsea backline. Pepe wants to play deeper while Saka wants to hurt teams more.

  • Arsenal at the back…

The back three will be David Luiz, Sead Kolasinac and Rob Holding I would have thought. As always, you can get at Arsenal, but I think they will use Holding as the aerial block for Olivier Giroud, who Arsenal know can cause damage in and around the box.

They will not be too troubled by Giroud for pace.

Charlie Nicholas 'worried' about Christian Pulisic in the FA Cup final

Christian Pulisic has been breathtakingly good for Chelsea and I am worried about him - he looks like the new Eden Hazard and he could reach those heights.

Mason Mount is decent too, but you can get at Jorginho, and that could create space in the pocket for Lacazette.

VERDICT…

It will be an open game and a good footballing game. Both teams will get at each other and the front three with Ceballos in behind will cause problems.

Chelsea have been worse defensively than Arsenal and that tells you something.

If it is a farewell to Aubameyang, he will give the farewell with a trophy. The wide areas will hurt Chelsea too much.

Prediction: Arsenal 3-2 Chelsea (40/1 with Sky Bet)

Odds correct as of 1700 BST on 29/07/20

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