PMB: FA Cup final - tactics
news Sat 19 May 2018
We conclude our Pre-Match Briefing for today's game...
• Supporters at Wembley will want to see the Chelsea that used skill and determination to win five games on the spin rather than the pale shadow of the last game. This is a trophy that has meant so much to generations of fans and it is long by recent standards since it last found a home at Stamford Bridge.
• ‘We now have six days to change our desire, our will to fight,’ said Antonio Conte after the Newcastle defeat, ‘because if we play a game like this in the FA Cup final we do not have a chance.’ He reiterated his desire ‘to finish the season in the best possible way,’ and may revert to the side that dominated and defeated Liverpool earlier this month.
• That team was set-up in a 3-5-1-1 formation with a three-man midfield of N’Golo Kante, Cesc Fabregas and Tiemoue Bakayoko, and Olivier Giroud leading the line ahead of Eden Hazard. The Frenchman and fellow striker Alvaro Morata both netted in our semi-final appearance at the national stadium. The Saints’ best period in that game, though, came when they switched from three to four at the back. Food for thought when Man United tend to use a back four in a 4-3-3 formation. The Blues could have the edge in pace and mobility in the centre.
• The alternatives are the 3-4-2-1 that would tend towards more forwards in the box but less strength in the middle (against Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic), or a 4-3-3 that has so far been used only occasionally, later in games.
• The flanks will be battlegrounds on the broad Wembley turf, with it likely to be Victor Moses (sent off in last year’s final) up against Ashley Young, and Marcos Alonso tasked with getting the better of Antonio Valencia.
• Willy Caballero has kept goal in the cup campaign to date, but Thibaut Courtois may receive the nod this weekend. Gary Cahill could cap his World Cup call-up with a start in the centre ahead of Andreas Christensen.
• Jose Mourinho is renowned for his neutralising of opponents’ strengths. This was evident again in the semi-final at Wembley against Tottenham, though they had to come from behind to see off Pochettino’s men.
• The Portuguese had two of the three front players in his 4-3-3 system, Jesse Lingard and Romelu Lukaku, use their pace to press high against Spurs’ back four – though not their goalkeeper. The Lilywhites found it relatively easy to break past that barrier at first, with Harry Kane dropping deep to link, and the Red Devils regularly found themselves haring back to close down fast breakaways.
• When Man United attacked, the north Londoners began by driving them wide and into blind alleys. However, Lingard’s regular runs behind and United’s widemen moving inside began to unnerve the north Londoners, and they lost their tactical discipline. Long passes to the Mancunians’ frontmen allowed midfielders Alexis Sanchez and Ander Herrera to find space from lay-offs.
• Mourinho often fields the tallest and most physical players against Chelsea. However, Marouane Fellaini has been sidelined, Anthony Martial, who is reported fit, and Lukaku both suffered injuries recently, and centre-back Phil Jones has barely featured in their past dozen or so matches. Jones may still start should Mourinho opt for a back three.
• David De Gea won United’s Player of the Year for the fourth time in five years earlier this month. The Spain goalkeeper has just produced the best saves and clean sheets statistics of his Old Trafford career.
OLD BOY BLUES
• A boyhood Chelsea fan, Romelu Lukaku had a hand in the Blues’ successful 2011/12 FA Cup campaign.
• In his two-and-a half years at the Bridge, cultured midfielder Juan Mata won the FA Cup, Europa League and Champions League, memorably setting up Didier Drogba’s equaliser in the Munich final.
• After two-and-a-half seasons at Benfica, Nemanja Matic returned to Chelsea to help the club win the League Cup and Premier League title, twice.
• Over two spells with the club, Jose Mourinho became the most successful manager in Chelsea’s history.