Arsenal and Chelsea will play out a London derby over in Baku, as the two contest the Europa League final. We take a look at the Three Keys to this fixture. Bet on the match here.
Maurizio Sarri v Unai Emery
Maurizio Sarri started the season very well as he went to implement a new style at Stamford Bridge. However, things took a turn for the worse when the rigours of playing every three days began in December. A string of poor results put Sarri under increasing pressure, but they recovered to give Manchester City a run for their money in the League Cup final. They were unlucky not to win but since then, Chelsea have only lost two matches and won ten times in the process. The Italian will be hoping that the team can rally together to hand him his first major trophy as a manager.
Unai Emery, on the other hand, is a household name when it comes to the Europa League, as he won the competition three times on the trot with Sevilla between 2014 and 2016. By extension, he is, and remains, the most successful manager ever in this competition. He has guided Arsenal to 11 wins in 14 Europa League matches, including stunning victories both home and away against Valencia and Napoli. That notwithstanding, the Gunners have had their issues under Emery this season too. They lost three consecutive league matches in April and finished outside of the top four. Their Champions League qualification will depend on this final and fortunately for them, they have a specialist in charge.
Aubameyang and Lacazette v Hazard and Giroud
Arsenal are a fluid attacking side and this has been more evident whenever Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexander Lacazette have been partnered up top. The two strikers have a way of finding each other and they like to play behind defenders where they can make intelligent runs. With their natural ability to find the back of the net, Chelsea’s defence will have a real problem here. Antonio Rudiger is injured, whilst David Luiz and Andreas Christensen aren’t exactly gifted with speed and this could be an area for Arsenal to punish Chelsea who like to play with a high defensive line.
On the other hand, Chelsea have Eden Hazard and Olivier Giroud who struck a partnership as soon as the Frenchman signed for the Blues from Arsenal. Giroud is a physical striker who holds up play very well, which allows the creative players to flourish. It must be noted that Giroud has performed well in this competition ahead of Gonzalo Higuain who has struggled at times since joining the Blues in January. With this potentially being Hazard’s last game as a Blue, he will want to leave a lasting impression.
The Video Assistant Referee, popularly known as VAR, has not been used in the Europa League, but it is set to be used in the final. The officiating crew has a rich Italian flavour led by Gianluca Rocchi, Assistant Referees Filippo Meli, and Lorenzo Manganelli, with Daniele Orsato as the fourth official. The VAR unit will be headed by another Italian, Massimiliano Irrati, and they will be expected to give clarity to troublesome situations. The history of VAR’s use has been marred with a lot of controversies and you can expect it to feature quite prominently here.