Martin Keown believes this evening’s FA Cup final may be the last time we ever see Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in an Arsenal shirt and has picked out David Luiz’s aerial duel with Olivier Giroud as one of the key battles at Wembley.
Both Mikel Arteta and Frank Lampard will view the much-anticipated all-London clash – a repeat of the 2017 final – as a golden opportunity to claim their first piece of silverware in management.
Arsenal’s victory over Chelsea three years ago saw the north London club overtake Manchester United as the most successful team in the history of the competition with 13 wins but Arteta’s men go into the match as underdogs.
Central defender Luiz has come under intense scrutiny after a series of high-profile mistakes this season but the error-prone Brazilian is a shoo-in to start against a resurgent Giroud, who has scored seven goals in all competitions since the season restarted.
Giroud – who won three FA Cups during his time with Arsenal – produced an outstanding performance as Chelsea saw off Manchester United to reach the final and Keown feels keeping the Frenchman quiet will be key.
‘Today will see Olivier Giroud against David Luiz — the former Arsenal striker against the former Chelsea defender,’ the ex-Arsenal defender said in his Daily Mail column.
‘Giroud got the better of Victor Lindelof in the semi-final by getting in front of the United man to score from Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross.
‘Arsenal cannot allow that to happen today.
Only City and Liverpool produced more crosses in the Premier League in 2019-20 so Luiz and Co need to make sure they boss any aerial situations.
‘Getting his head on the end of a cross was how Giroud opened the scoring against Arsenal in last year’s Europa League final.’
Keown believes Arsenal’s stunning team goal against Manchester City will give them ‘confidence’ heading into the final but has warned his former club about the dangers that come with such a high-risk approach against Chelsea’s press.
‘Arsenal opened the scoring in their semi-final by beating Manchester City’s press and going from back to front,’ he added.
‘The move consisted of 18 passes and involved 10 players before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang converted Nicolas Pepe’s cross. It was a great team goal — but a word of caution.
‘No Premier League team played a higher percentage of passes in their own half than Arsenal and that can be dangerous.
‘Liverpool like to win the ball back high up the pitch, then attack and Chelsea did that exceptionally well against Manchester United in their semi-final.
‘Frank Lampard will want a repeat against Arsenal. Mikel Arteta’s players have to make good decisions when they have the ball — better than they’ve been making in the Premier League.
‘Only Norwich suffered more turnovers close to their own goal than Arsenal. That’s largely why my former club faced the fifth-highest number of shots in the league. But that opening goal against City can give them confidence.’
On Arsenal talisman Aubameyang, Keown said: ‘Dare I say today might be the last we see of Aubameyang in an Arsenal shirt? I hope not but it is possible.
‘The 31-year-old inside forward, who has yet to agree a contract extension, will take up his usual position on the left.
‘I have compared Aubameyang to Thierry Henry and that’s the biggest compliment I can give him — he’s the closest thing I’ve seen to my old team-mate. But what Henry also did was win us trophies.
‘He was so driven and completely consumed by Arsenal that he dragged us to success. That’s what Aubameyang should want to do today.
‘He is entirely capable of it. He is a great goalscorer but has been a runner-up in the League Cup and Europa League with Arsenal and won’t want to make it a hat-trick.’
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