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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - Which David Luiz will turn up?
The neutrals, as much as fans of his current and former clubs, will as ever be keeping an eye on David Luiz.
When Premier League football resumed after the enforced break caused by the coronavirus disease (COVID19) pandemic, the world watched as Luiz produced a comically inept display in Arsenal’s 3-0 defeat to a rampant Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. Eyes rolled: Same old David Luiz.
But since then he has been responsible for some of Arsenal’s best performances as Mikel Arteta has slowly given the team more cohesion and defensive stability.
So, which version of the Brazilian defender will turn up against his former club at Wembley?
Will it be the occasionally mistake-ridden player with a penchant for giving away penalties and getting sent off in high-profile matches? Or, more accurately, the two-time FA Cup winner with Chelsea whose outstanding performance against Manchester City in the semi-final played a significant part in the Gunners reaching the final?
Do not bet against him confounding his army of critics yet again.
Can Frank Lampard make history with Chelsea?
An already very good first season in charge of Chelsea could end up being an excellent one for Frank Lampard. And, indeed, a historic one.
Not many people imagined Lampard would enjoy such a fine debut season when he joined Chelsea last summer, particularly as the club was hamstrung by a transfer ban.
But despite inconsistent performances along the way, a fourth-place finish, and Champions League qualification, have exceeded the expectations of most Chelsea fans.
The emergence of young talent such as Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham, Fikayo Tomori, and Billy Gilmour have added to the positivity around Stamford Bridge as big-money signings, like that of Timo Werner, return to the club ahead of next season.
But before that, the seemingly endless 2019-20 season could end with a trophy as well.
Should Chelsea come out on top at Wembley, Lampard, whose father Frank Lampard Snr. claimed two FA Cup winner’s medals with West Ham in 1975 and 1980, will become one of only 16 individuals to have won the famous competition as a player and manager.
He will also ensure that a Lampard has won the cup in the 1970s, 1980s, 2000s, 2010s, and 2020s.
Will Arteta resurrect Arsenal’s love affair with the FA Cup?
If expectations weigh heavy on Lampard, then spare a thought for Mikel Arteta. The young Spanish coach is on the verge of becoming the first man to lead Arsenal to a trophy since the club’s greatest manager Arsene Wenger.
Despite what many see as a disappointing denouement to 22 years at Arsenal, Wenger won the FA Cup three times in his last five seasons at the club, and a remarkable, record-breaking seven times in total.
While Unai Emery failed to handle the pressure of succeeding Wenger, Arteta seems to have thicker skin and, having represented the club as a player, a deeper understanding of what Arsenal fans demand.
It would be a stretch to say that Arteta’s time as coach has been an unqualified success so far, but all indications are that he is finally steering a club, that was drifting aimlessly, in the right direction.
A trophy in less than a season as manager would see him join former Arsenal greats in double-quick time.
Is Christian Pulisic ready to justify Captain America hype?
Few players have caught the eye quite like Christian Pulisic since Project Restart.
The man dubbed Captain America had a promising if inconsistent season disrupted by injury at the turn of the year. But the break gave him ample time to recover and his increasingly improving performances since then have made him one of Chelsea’s most in-form players going into the FA Cup final. His cameo against Liverpool at Anfield was particularly outstanding, almost inspiring what would have been a remarkable comeback.
A few minor mistakes will in recent weeks have concerned Lampard, who will know Pulisic’s pace and creativity could be a major weapon for Chelsea should he get the nod at Wembley.
The US international missed the 2-0 semi-final win over Manchester United and was substituted near the end of Chelsea’s last Premier League match against Wolverhampton Wanderers, perhaps an indication that his coach is saving him for the big showpiece event.
After the 21-year-old’s introduction against Liverpool, football pundit Gary Lineker tweeted that Pulisic could become “the first American footballing (soccer for you guys) star.”
What better way to confirm such a lofty prediction than by winning the FA Cup in your first season in England.
Mount or Saka: Which England hopeful will rise to the top?
A feature of both clubs’ seasons has been the reliance by Lampard and Arteta on young English academy talent ahead of more established, but fading, international stars.
Twenty-one-year-old Mason Mount started the season on fire for Chelsea, for a while even making fans forget the departure of club legend Eden Hazard. Expectations and fatigue would catch up with Mount, but it is a testament to his character that he has ended the season as one of the team’s best performers.
Bukayo Saka has arguably been an even bigger revelation. Only 18, the tricky winger forward has pace to burn, and is already a trusted first-team player for Arteta, not to mention a favorite with fans, despite his tender years. A new four-year contract signed recently showed just how highly the club’s hierarchy think of him.
As left-sided attacking players, Mount and Saka play in roughly the same position, making their potential appearances at Wembley one of the final’s more intriguing sub-plots. And with Euro 2020 postponed until next summer, do not be surprised if the two youngsters are vying for the same position in the England team by then as well.
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