The final replay of the 1876 FA Cup, then.
This is the one, you will remember, in which the legendary Arthur Kinnaird, captain of the Old Etonians, got injured and was forced to take over, his sore fingers being a major factor in an easy 3- win. 0 for the Wanderers. We are mentioning this match only because attendance at the Kennington Oval that day, 1500, is currently the lowest in FA Cup Final history. For reasons we really don’t need to explain, this record will be erased from the record books at 5:31 pm this afternoon.So yeah, this fanless occasion is going to be really weird.
But the FA Cup finals aren’t supposed to feel normal. Would it have seemed fitting that Arsenal had won their first FA Cup in 1930, with the Graf Zeppelin hovering over Wembley, the 776-foot hydrogen-filled monster dipping its nose to recognize King George V? Would it have seemed fitting for Chelsea to win their first FA Cup in technicolor woozy 1970, after the kind of stramash at Old Trafford that wouldn’t be tolerated these days, not even outside of Belt & Haymaker on a hot Sunday after- midday? It also didn’t seem like a daily occurrence last year when Manchester City were making venison sausages at Watford, and there were 85,854 people in attendance for that one, for god’s sake. You are meant
to feel uncomfortable, a little uncomfortable, this is the effect of great sporting occasions. They feel surreal at the best of times. The anomaly is the essential point. So let’s go.
Today’s final, the 139th, could be a cracker. Arsenal will face Chelsea at the grand opportunity for the second time in four seasons, and the third overall. They have won the previous two, as the winning favorites in 2002 and then as losers in 2017. They will be overlooked again today, due to Chelsea’s best Premier League season and the Blues being them. beat 4-1 in last year’s Europa League final. But there is not much in it. Both sides can sparkle in attack; not a lot of cops, if we’re totally honest, on defense. That said, while neither team is yet the finished article under new management, both are able to dominate every day on a good day, as evidenced by their respective semi-final wins over Manchester City and Manchester United.
A 1-0 disappointment, then? Perhaps; the finals are so often, not to mention the local derbies. But it just as easily could be one of those heart-wrenching, back-and-forth goal fairs. And listen, not to mention the 6-0 last year, we didn’t have Sept goals since Blackpool and Bolton shared them in the Matthews final, so we’re more than due to one another. Do you want to? Yes, U.S. too! OK, so: Arsenal, Chelsea, you know what to do. Be about your business! Entertain the nation! It’s on!
Start: 17h30 BST.