Road to Wembley

Arsenal return to Wembley on Saturday as they look to bag their fourth FA Cup in seven years.

The Gunners take on Frank Lampard’s Chelsea in a repeat of the 2017 showpiece where the Reds claimed a 2-1 victory.

There is more than just silverware on the line for Mikel Arteta, who could secure his first piece of silverware as manager after just seven months in the job, with UEFA Europa League qualification also in the balance.

Victory over Chelsea would be a positive end to what has been a disastrous season but would also bolster the club’s coffers ahead of what is already going to be a difficult transfer window to navigate.

The road to Wembley started with the visit of Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United, who have since gained promotion to the Premier League, back in January. Reiss Nelson bundled in the winner shortly after the break following a dominant first half from the visitors. 

Arsenal youngsters were at it again in round four at Bournemouth with Bukayo Saka and Eddie Nketiah both on the scoresheet in a 2-1 win.

Sam Surridge pulled one back for the Cherries but Arsenal held on to progress.

The fifth round was a return to the south cast to take on League One outfit Portsmouth where Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Nketiah secured safe passage through to the quarter finals. 

It was also the first time we saw Pablo Marí in Arsenal colours.

The football calendar was rocked by the coronavirus outbreak but Project Restart saw the return of FA Cup with Arsenal travelling to Sheffield United. 

A Nicolas Pépé penalty seemed enough to book a place in the last four but David McGoldrick’s 87th minute equaliser looked set to force extra time at Bramall Lane. 

However, there was even later drama as Ceballos finished hard and low in stoppage time to continue the Gunners’ cup adventure. That strike was also the start of an impressive upturn in form for the Spaniard.

It set up a semi-final clash with Manchester City with Arteta going up against his mentor Pep Guardiola. 

In one of the most surprising and pleasing performances of the season, the Gunners produced a defensive masterclass to see off the reigning FA Cup champions 2-0 with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang grabbing both goals – his third goal in just two FA Cup appearances.

Emiliano Martínez is the only player to have played every minute of the cup run and with Bernd Leno only just returning to training, the Argentine will keep his place. Alexandre Lacazette, Dani Ceballos and Joe Willock are the only other players to have featured in all five games so far with Nketiah and Aubameyang the joint top scorers with two. 

It remains to be seen which tactics Arteta decides to go with against Chelsea. Will it be a back three or back four? Who will play at full back/wing back? Will we play defensive or on the front foot? 

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