When Chelsea won their only League and FA Cup Double in 2010 they were managed by an Italian and history can repeat itself at Wembley on Saturday. The Premier League champions are managed by Antonio Conte and they can beat Arsenal to complete just the second double in the history of the club. They would become the 7th team to win both major domestic honours in the same season during the Premier League era. Arsenal won the Double in 1998 and 2002 and have won the FA Cup twice in the last three seasons. Chelsea won three FA Cups between 2009 and 2012.
The two London clubs have only met in the Cup Final once before, in 2002. Arsenal beat Chelsea 2-0 in that match. The FA Cup Final is a meeting between two of the superpowers of the English game in a fixture that has a long history. The clubs first met in 1907 and have played 179 competitive fixtures. Chelsea have won 73 of those matches, Arsenal have won 62 and there have been 54 draws. Chelsea had a tally of 18 points more than Arsenal this season but home the team won both league fixtures.
Since 1993 the Cup has been dominated by superpowers. There are always some upsets in the early rounds but the cream usually comes from the top. A Premier League club has won the competition in each of the last 24 seasons and 22 runners-up were playing in the top division. Millwall in 2004 and Cardiff four years later made the final at the end of a Championship season but they are the only representatives from outside the top tier to qualify for the deciding tie over the last 24 years.
The dominance of the major clubs can be broken down event further. The average finishing position of the Cup winners in that season’s Premier League is fifth. Generally the winners also qualify for the Champions League and are one of the big spending clubs. The average finishing position of the Cup Final losers is 9th but that’s over 22 seasons and does not include the years when Millwall and Cardiff made the final. At 12th in the Championship Cardiff were the lowest ranked team in the pyramid to play in the Cup Final since the start of the Premier League.
In 1995 Everton beat Manchester United in the Cup Final after finishing 15th in the league. Wigan beat Manchester City in the final in 2013 after finishing 18th in the league. They are the only club to win the Cup and be relegated from the Premier League in the same season. No other club from outside the top 8 has won the FA Cup since 1993. That run will continue this time because Chelsea won the title and Arsenal finished fifth. That means the averages will drop or be maintained this year. Eleven Cup winners had finished first or second in the league season just finished.
There have been 51 goals in normal time in the last 24 finals, at an average of 2.13 goals per match. Only 18 of those goals were scored in the first half so 33 after the break. Both teams have scored in seven finals and only three of those have produced goals for both teams in the first half. There has been one scoreless 90 minutes which means 16 of the last 24 Cup Finals have been won to nil. The deciding tie rarely produces a scoring bonanza and only one has produced more than four goals and only eight have featured more than two goals.
Exactly half of the last 24 Cup winners led in the final at half-time. The same number of winners were drawing after 45 minutes which means no side has come from behind at the break to win the Cup Final after 90 minutes. The Cup winners have scored the first goal in 19 of 24 finals and two teams have scored first and then lost the tie but not in normal time. Eight finals have not produced a goal in the first half and nine leaders at half time have won the match in 90 minutes.
All the statistics point to a low scoring final. Strange things can happen in sport but the evidence suggests Chelsea will beat Arsenal in a match with less than three goals. Taking the numbers even further correct score bettors may consider 1-0 to Chelsea and the double result has Draw/Chelsea written all over it so 5-3 to Arsenal then!