Arsenal Women and Chelsea Women go head to head at Wembley on Sunday in the 2020/21 Women’s FA Cup final.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, last season’s competition was delayed into the new campaign. The second round proper was postponed from January 4 to April 4 2021, with the quarter-finals taking place after the start of the 2021/22 season.
It’s set to be a heavyweight clash too with the Barclay’s FA Women’s Super League top two – Arsenal and Chelsea – facing off for the title. If Emma Hayes’ side were to win this weekend, it would see them complete the domestic treble for the first time, having won the WSL and Women’s League Cup titles last season.
Here, we run down all you need to know ahead of the big game…
Record winners Arsenal aiming for 15th title
Arsenal head into Sunday’s game top of the Barclays FA Women’s Super League with just one draw and one defeat in all competitions this season.
Jonas Eidevall has given Arsenal a much-needed spark after replacing the much-respected Joe Montemurro in the summer. Despite the change, both managers must be credited for helping Arsenal to their most recent FA Cup final.
Arsenal’s route to the final
|18 April 2021||Fourth round||Arsenal 10-0 Gillingham|
|16 May 2021||Fifth round||Arsenal 9-0 Crystal Palace|
|29 September 2021||Quarter-finals||Arsenal 5-1 Tottenham|
|31 October 2021||Semi-finals||Arsenal 3-0 Brighton|
And it’s no surprise, given the club’s successful history with their women’s team, that the Gunners have won an incredible 14 FA Cup titles in their history. If they with the trophy for the 15th time this weekend, it will see them seven clear of the next closest team (Southampton Women – 8 titles).
They have only finished as runners-up twice. However, their last final appearance in the 2017/18 season saw them lose to 3-1 Chelsea.
Chelsea chasing third FA Cup
As you would expect from two sides at the top of the Women’s Super League, Chelsea have also been in formidable form. After losing 3-2 to Arsenal on the opening WSL weekend, they have won their last seven fixtures and are flying high in the Women’s Champions League.
Chelsea have won two FA Cup titles in their history – both under Hayes – with their first coming in the 2014/15 season. It was followed by the aforementioned 2017/18 title, with Ramona Bachmann and Fran Kirby scoring the goals.
But the Blues have also been on the losing end of an FA Cup final to Arsenal – Danielle Carter’s first-half strike saw the Gunners lift the trophy in the 2015/16 season. In their first final in the 2011/12 season, they lost to Birmingham on penalties.
Chelsea’s route to the final
|16 April 2021||Fourth round||Chelsea 5-0 London City Lionesses|
|20 May 2021||Fifth round||Chelsea 3-0 Everton|
|29 September 2021||Quarter-finals||Birmingham 0-4 Chelsea|
|31 October 2021||Semi-finals||Man City 0-3 Chelsea|
Arsenal and Chelsea are no strangers to a showdown, but Hayes’ side will be aiming for a touch of revenge after a 3-2 defeat in the WSL earlier in the season.
Vivianne Miedema opened her account for the season inside 14 minutes, before Erin Cuthbert replied just before the break. A superb Beth Mead double fired Arsenal into a 3-1 lead, but Pernille Harder pulled a goal back for Chelsea to make for an exciting finish.
But Arsenal took the early advantage in the title race, seeing out the victory in front of 8,705 fans at the Emirates Stadium.
Sky Sports’ Karen Carney said after the game: “Chelsea were not good today and they have to own that. They didn’t deserve to win – I’ll be brutal with that. I love Emma Hayes, but Arsenal were the better side.
“Arsenal were under a lot of pressure but they stood tall and defended brilliantly. Arsenal deserved their win today.”
The players to watch
Eidevall has some incredible attacking talent at his disposal. Vivianne Miedema continues to show why she is one of the best strikers in the world, leading Arsenal’s front line. After being left out of Team GB’s Olympic football squad, Beth Mead has begun this season with a vengeance. She has scored four and assisted four WSL goal this season, as well as shining for England.
Arsenal captain Kim Little and Katie McCabe have also been in flying form this season. Little has scored from six of her 10 shots in the WSL with an impressive conversion rate of 60 per cent, while McCabe continues to show her incredible versatility.
The Gunners’ midfield has been further strengthened by the arrival of Frida Maanum this summer. She has been one of Arsenal’s most consistent players, starting in every WSL game so far.
But Chelsea also have one of the best squads in the league. Sam Kerr and Fran Kirby continue to light up women’s football – they sit first and second in the top scorers’ stakes so far this season with Kirby recently scoring her 100th goal for Chelsea.
Unfortunately, Pernille Harder has suffered with injury this season, but Jess Fleming has stepped up in her absence. She has scored four goals in all competitions this season, as well as assisting Beth England’s goal during the FA Cup semi-final victory against Man City.
Erin Cuthbert has also shone at right wing-back. She has been an incredible young talent for a few years now, now cementing her place in Chelsea’s starting XI – no mean feat – and will be a real danger for Arsenal this weekend.
Eidevall: We will do everything in our power to win
Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall to Sky Sports News’ Anton Toloui: “I’m excited, of course. We have a really nice game to look forward to and preparation for that has started on the tactics board… now it’s with the team. I’m really looking forward to it.
“Every game poses a different challenge. Chelsea have been very strong so far this season but I think it will be a similar game [to the opening day] in that it will be two very good teams and there will be small margins that will be the difference.
“You need to be task-orientated. You need to be focused on what we are going to do and don’t let the emotions play the better hand of you. We need to remind ourselves now, after the international break, of who we are, what we are going to do and prioritise what information is the most crucial, what we have time to practise and speak about before to be the best possible version of ourselves.
“It’s what it’s all about, to win trophies and to win it our way, to make ourselves and the club proud, the fans proud. Every opportunity we have to add something to the trophy cabinet, we will do everything in our power to make that happen.
“These are the games you want to play, you want to watch and I hope we can put on a great show for everyone who is there… Even if you are watching on TV around the world, I hope we can still put on a great show.”
Pundit preview – Who will win?
Sky Sports’ Karen Carney: “The timing is not ideal, coming off the back of the international break. Both managers will be going ‘right, who’s fit? Who’s fit?’ and that’s the first priority.
“Arsenal have got a couple of injuries. I want to see if Leah Williamson is fit – that’s a big one. If she’s not fit or is fit, that’s a difference maker for me.
“But it is a case of who’s available and then it’s about your game plan. The pitch is five yards bigger, so how does that affect the way you press? I think that affects the way Chelsea press, so there’s pros and cons for each team.
“I can see it going all the way to extra time. My gut probably says Arsenal [to win] at the moment.
“It’s a shame they haven’t had a few games in the WSL to get back because you go away as an international player and you have different styles and different cultures, then come for two days and get back into your club mould. Whoever adapts the quickest will probably go on and win the game.”
Former Arsenal striker Kelly Smith: “Both teams are in sensational form, their players are really stepping up in big games. Beth Mead, Kim Little, Katie McCabe have been outstanding. Harder, Kirby and Kerr have been stepping up in games for Chelsea.
“What’s difficult about this FA Cup final is that they’re coming off an international break. They would only have returned from international duty on Wednesday so the players would have had a day off and then the manager have only got a couple of days to prepare.
“So they haven’t really got their feet on the grass and go through a lot of stuff. It’s all going to be probably walk-throughs or white boards of computer-based stuff. It’s going to be difficult for the managers to pick the right formula for the game, but that’s why the managers are paid the big bucks, right?
“I would edge with Chelsea and as an Arsenal fan, that’s a little bit difficult for me to say. But at this moment in time, they probably have the stronger bench to change the game.
“I don’t think William will be fit, which is big because she’s been a stalwart for Arsenal at the back – playing those link balls through, playing those diagonal balls, making the transition game a different game for Arsenal. I’m just leaning toward Chelsea a little bit.”