Arsenal secure Europa League place with FA Cup victory

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SOURCE: Photo

A man-of-the-match performance from the Gabonese international star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang proved the difference in the 2020 FA Cup final, as Arsenal came from behind to defeat London rivals Chelsea 2-1 at Wembley Stadium. In doing so, the Gunners have secured a place in next season’s Europa League, having finished outside the qualification places for both the Champions League and the Europa League in the English Premier League (EPL) campaign.

In the clash between two up-and-coming managers in the shape of Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta and Chelsea chief Frank Lampard, the latter looked like getting the edge based on the opening exchanges when Christian Pulisic jinked his way around the Arsenal defence before finishing confidently past Martinez with just five minutes on the clock.

Injuries and complacency cost Chelsea dear

The first half of the opening 45 minutes was all Chelsea, with Arsenal seemingly hanging on for dear life at times. The imperious Pulisic was in no mood for mercy, with his movement between the lines streets ahead of anyone else on the field at this point. Nevertheless, the drinks break midway through the first period proved a major turning point, allowing Arsenal to regroup.

Arsenal were handed a lifeline on the stroke of the half time interval. Aubameyang was clipped by Chelsea skipper Cesar Azpilicueta and Aubameyang dusted himself down to convert the penalty kick. Azpilicueta appeared to damage his hamstring, forcing the Blues’ captain off the field at half time. The Spaniard left the Wembley turf in tears and the equalizer certainly handed Arsenal the initiative at the start of the second half.

Aubameyang: FA Cup swansong or new contract in the offing?

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SOURCE: Photo, Tim Reckmann, CC BY 2.0

To make matters worse for Chelsea, influential playmaker Christian Pulisic was also forced off with a hamstring problem with half-an-hour of normal time remaining. With Arsenal in the ascendancy, it was Aubameyang who proved the match-winner again, turning Kurt Zouma inside and out before lifting the ball coolly over the head of Blues keeper Willy Caballero from a tight angle. It’s the kind of display that underlines why Arsenal are so desperate to tie the former Borussia Dortmund ace down to a new lucrative long-term contract with the North London club. Mikel Arteta hopes that this fresh silverware will inspire Aubameyang to help yield a new era for the club rather than viewing it as a perfect way to sign-off.

There is certainly increasing positivity surrounding the Gunners at present. The squad seem to be playing with a spring in their step and are behind manager Mikel Arteta in every possible way. Despite a disappointing eighth place finish in the EPL this term, they are a good value price in the EPL futures markets to push for a top five finish in 2020/21. The latest EPL futures betting markets have Arsenal priced at +450 to finish in the top five next season, a wager that’s available with FOX Bet’s legalized online sportsbook in the US.

In the post-match discussions, Arteta reiterated his desire to win more major trophies with the Gunners, having been head-hunted as the long-term replacement to compatriot Unai Emery. Arteta said that he was “proud” of what had been achieved by his players in such a short space of time and said that a change of “energy” and “mentality” has helped the squad to “enjoy their profession and their time together”.

As for Chelsea and Frank Lampard, defeat against their city rivals on the biggest stage will be a bitter pill to swallow for all concerned at Stamford Bridge. Lampard admitted that his players “got complacent” after taking such an early lead. Although injuries disrupted the Blues’ patterns of play, Lampard was honest enough to state his team could “only blame themselves” for the final result.

Defeat for Chelsea has come at a cost in terms of their Champions League hopes too. Injuries to Pulisic and Azpilicueta have only extended the Blues’ injury list, with the likes of Kante, Willian and Loftus-Cheek all unfit for selection as the West Londoners attempt to overturn a three-goal deficit against German giants Bayern Munich.