Either Frank Lampard or Mikel Arteta can win their first trophy as managers if they lead their sides to victory when Chelsea clash with Arsenal in Saturday’s FA Cup final at Wembley. Both former midfielders enjoyed fine careers on the pitch, Lampard becoming Chelsea’s all-time leading goal scorer during a 13-year stay at Stamford Bridge where he also won four FA Cups, three Premier League titles, the Champions League and the Europa League. Arteta spent less time at Arsenal but became captain during a five-year stint which, despite seeing him pick up injuries, also led to two FA Cup wins.
However, for Lampard, winning the FA Cup would help create a winning culture at Chelsea and be the ideal launchpad for his greater ambition of making them title contenders again. Chelsea have already secured their main aim of qualifying for the Champions League, but silverware would be further vindication of the good job Lampard is doing. For Arteta, silverware at the end of a difficult season for Arsenal could be key to convincing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to stay and attracting bigname players.
It would also provide Arsenal with Europa League football for next season and the revenues from that are greatly needed at a club hit hard financially by the coronavirus pandemic. Chelsea have already vowed to back Lampard in the transfer market and the result on Saturday will not affect their spending ability. The Blues have already signed Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner for next season and have plans to sign Kai Havertz, defensive reinforcements and a new goalkeeper. But missing out on European football could impact Arteta’s ability to strengthen his squad and slow down the rebuilding job he has on his hands.
For years, matches between Arsenal and Chelsea were all about the feud between Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho. But Saturday, Lampard and Arteta can usher in a new era when they renew a fresh managerial rivalry that could dominate London football for years to come. The two men had many midfield battles and, while their rivalry is unlikely to be as fractious as the run-ins between Mourinho and Wenger, both have established themselves as two of the brightest young managers in England. Lampard could become the first English manager to lift FA Cup since his uncle, Harry Redknapp, did so with Portsmouth in 2008.
He won the FA Cup four times as a Chelsea player and victory today would seal a remarkable first season in the dugout. There were doubts whether he was ready for the job but he has guided Chelsea to a top-four finish, re-established them as top dogs in London and vindicated the decision to appoint him. It has not all been plain sailing, but his vision of how to make Chelsea title contenders is clear and he has backed academy products including Mason Mount, who has flourished.
It is easy to forget the state the club was when Unai Emery was sacked in November. His last game attracted a near record low crowd at Emirates Stadium, Granit Xhaka had been stripped of the captaincy after a public fall-out with fans and Arsenal were on their worst run of form since 1992. Arteta, who won the FA Cup twice at Arsenal, has steadied the ship and, while the Gunners could only finish eighth in the Premier League, they are making progress. Victory on Saturday and Europa League football would provide some stability at the end of a turbulent season.
Arteta will be 38 years and 128 days old on Saturday and Lampard will be 42 years and 42 days old, making them the two youngest Premier League managers. Lifting the trophy could be key to their plans, but for different reasons.