FA Cup Final : Who holds the key?
It was an entertaining weekend in the FA Cup. The semi final clash between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United was a thriller while Chelsea showed shades of last season in a clinical 2-0 win over Southampton. Goals from ex-Arsenal forwards Alexis Sanchez and Olivier Giroud were instrumental in lifting their teams to the summit clash. Considering the sheer depth of talent Chelsea and Manchester United have, it is a surprise that both teams find themselves chasing only the FA Cup this season.
The 2016-17 champions were one of the front-runners for this season’s Premier League title when the season started last August whereas United started off the campaign looking unstoppable. Approaching the conclusion of this season, Chelsea have been condemned to Europa League football for the next season whereas Manchester United have had to be content with the tag of the 'also rans', finishing second.
Winter signings to the rescue
Earlier this year, in the winter transfer window, United signed Alexis Sanchez and Chelsea sprung up a surprise by signing Frenchman Olivier Giroud, both from Arsenal. It was, however, the two ex-Gunners who were the reasons to bring a smile to their club’s faithful. To credit the winter signings of Sanchez and Giroud to the two managers is nothing short of appreciating the tactical masterminds these managers possess.
The FA Cup is crucial for both managers as well. Chelsea boss Antonio Conte is most probably on his way out, and to leave English soil with a winner’s medal would be the perfect send-off the Blues could give him. United manager Mourinho, on the other hand, would return trophy-less should he return with a runners-up medal from Wembley.
Winter signings Sanchez and Giroud hold key for their club’s fortunes
Chelsea’s win was clinical. Their center-forwards fired both the goals, Giroud in the 46th minute and Morata in the 82nd minute. United’s win on the other hand, was inspirational, coming from a goal down to win 2-1. Alexis Sanchez cancelled out Delle Alli's opener and Ander Herrera fired in the second which proved to be the winner. This has set up for a tasty FA Cup final where Manchester United take on Chelsea on the 19th of May.
Should either of Chelsea or United have an edge over each other, it could be provided by none other than ex-Gunners Giroud and Sanchez. The stakes are well setup for both the players. The Chilean international is not going to the World Cup this summer after missing out on a qualifying berth. He would want to turn his indifferent form at United into something memorable. The weight of the famous number 7 jersey may just be the incentive for Alexis to up his game. With 6 goals in his last 7 appearances at Wembley, Alexis would be keen to replicate his form in the finals.
Build up to the Finals
Giroud’s form is crucial for Chelsea who have had form issues with the misfiring Spanish international Alvaro Morata. The 31-year-old French striker would consider it imperative to find himself on the score-sheet at Wembley should he want to find himself present on the flight to Russia.
This may not be Giroud’s best season in England and the numbers do not back him either. He has found the back of the net only nine times in all competitions this season. However, recently, Giroud has scored thrice in two appearances against Southampton. He scored the late winner in a come-from-behind 3-2 win over Southampton in the Premier League.
The countdown to the finals has begun. The final will be all the more interesting when the two ex-Arsenal forwards battle it out in a bid to salvage their season. Both managers have not been on good terms over the years, either.
Wembley will be full of buzz when Mourinho and Conte will try to outclass each other, in what probably would be Conte's final hurrah on English soil.