Let’s not beat around the bush, in all honesty, besides Arsenal’s front three which slightly edges us, the rest of the departments, Chelsea had better quality. Our midfield and defense on paper look a lot stronger than theirs. However, this is the issue, games are not won on paper and I feel Arteta tactically beat Frank in the final. Let’s have a look at a few key points to dissect the game further.

First 15 mins:

Chelsea looked stunning off the mark. Passes were crisp, quick, and forward progressing. Chelsea applied immense pressure leading up to Pulisic’s opener on the 5th minute. The goal was a fantastic team movement which heavily featured Pulisic from start to finish. The key trait to the goal was that passes were all forward progressing which disrupted Arsenal’s defense.

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At this point, it seemed like we were going to see a repeat of last year’s Europa League Final at Baku. However, what transpired from this point was a complete twist of events.

Arsenal and Arteta’s tactical sharpness:

After the first 15 mins, Arsenal started to slowly get back into the game. Initial nerves started to disappear and they got back to executing their game plan. Their 3-4-3 was matched by our 3-4-3 however, their execution was a lot better. Most notably with the ball, Maitland-Niles shifted into midfield, which pushed Tierney in LB, consequently overloading our midfield of Kovacic and Jorginho.

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Their tactical victory in midfield then allowed them to play the ball from deep and find their wingers from both sides. Aubameyang and Pepe were terrorizing both Reece/Azpi and Rudi/Alonso from their respective wings. Eventually, the sustained pressure from Arsenal leads to a penalty for the equalizing goal. Aubameyang’s pace was too much for Azpi to handle who consequently gives away the penalty.

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Injuries nightmare:

Once Arsenal equalized, everything that could possibly go wrong for Chelsea went wrong for Chelsea. On the 35th minute, captain Azpilicueta who is renowned for his incredible fitness injures his hamstring. It was difficult to watch a tearful Azpilicueta leave the field.

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This forced Frank to make his first change and readjust the backline. Zouma went to RCB and Christensen as CB.

On the 49th minute, our most potent attacker Pulisic injures his hamstring and at this stage, it looked like a massive uphill battle awaiting Chelsea.

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World-class Aubameyang:

On the 67th minute, Bellerin went for a dazzling run through the midfield straight into the heart of the Chelsea defense. Rudiger who by this point already had a horrendous game put the cherry on top of his disastrous performance by lunging into a tackle that was easily evaded by Bellerin.

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The ball eventually found its way towards Aubameyang who made light work of Zouma and showcased why he is deemed as one of the best strikers in world football currently.

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Disgusting officiating:

As if being 2-1 down and injuries to key personnel weren’t devastating enough, then you have Anthony Taylor who truly destroyed this final by not allowing Chelsea to have an even contest. At half time Arsenal received 9 free kicks to Chelsea’s none. Anthony Taylor was dishing out yellow cards to Chelsea players for fun. However, the biggest joke came on the 73rd minute when Kovacic was shown a second yellow card when he clearly won the ball, and if anything he was the one fouled upon. In all honesty, even his first booking was probably questionable.

Further ridiculous officiating continued when Arsenal’s keeper clearly handled the ball outside of the box but it was ignored blatantly.

Frank’s in-game management:

We can sit here and blame the referee as much as we want or say that it wasn’t Chelsea’s day but truth be told, Frank as a manager had a poor game as well. Here’s why:

  • He could see after 15 minutes that his 3-4-3 was being destroyed by Arsenal. So why not make the adjustment early on? Why wait for the demise?
  • At half time why not make the tactical change to 4-3-3? Bring on Kante as lone DM, shift Mount in midfield, consequently easing Kovacic’s defensive duties.
  • Why not take either of Alonso or Rudi off to shift to a back 4 and bring on CHO for more width and directness?
  • What was the point of bringing Pedro who has barely featured in this restart period and ignoring CHO who was ready to go?
  • Frank even complained about the sideways and backward passing after Chelsea went ahead 1-0. So why not scream/shout to the players to stop doing that? There’s drinks break as well in the match now, so why not convey that message then?

Overall it’s a final for all Chelsea fans to forget as we’ve done well in a tumultuous season. However, defensive and at times tactical issues need to be eradicated off our game as repeating it next season won’t be tolerated with the quality of players coming in (or destined to come) next season.