There is an element of truth in any effective humor. The 2018-19 FA Cup gave birth to the wonderful “Don’t Mug Off The Cup” ad campaign, modeled loosely after Vaudeville cinema like Mr. Payback. An art exhibitor jokes that connoisseurs are not missing real English football on TV, “just the FA Cup,” followed by an impish mascot in an FA Cup suit – the “Mugged-Off Cup” – sending a priceless vase (“vahze”) to its powdery doom. Another character waxes his hot rod (pun intended) while sneering to a friend, “The FA Cup interferes with the momentum of our league.” The Mugged-Off Cup shows up to pour grease on the car.
Wouldn’t you know it, despite the COVID-19 pause and Liverpool’s utter dominance turning the Premier League into a UEFA qualification stage since late winter, the FA Cup is getting no small amount of tacit “it’s just the FA Cup” treatment in the headlines. Starting 11s warred fiercely in the 2019-20 FA Cup quarterfinals and semifinals, but post-match stories focused on player appearances and not the event itself. Google searches for “Chelsea FC” reveal a media obsessed with transfer rumors (“rumours”) and the 2-0 Blues win over Wolverhampton Wanderers to cap-off the EPL season on Sunday.
You would hardly know there’s about to be an historic fixture at Wembley Stadium.
Sports coverage can be like a slow freight train, unable or unwilling to change direction once lumbering down the tracks. When the popularity of something takes an uptick, the press can be slow to react.
All this to say there will be plenty of punters watching the FA Cup Final on Saturday. The last of the “quadruple” championships fought by Premiership clubs will be up for grabs, with ancient rivals taking the pitch having little to lose. Chelsea wasn’t expected to make much noise this season and faces an almost-insurmountable climb in the upcoming back end of a Champions League tie with Bayern. Arsenal lost in the Europa League Round of 32 and will likely be reduced to friendlies for a while after Saturday’s match. Everything that the 2 clubs can hope to take away from 2019-20 is on the line at Wembley.
What outcome does London and Las Vegas lean toward? That depends on the betting market. Bookmakers (thank goodness) have not forgotten the FA Cup as the event wheels toward a belated climax, offering scores of prop betting markets (including some fun lines on individual apps) to go with the usual moneylines, spreads, and choices of O/U goal-total numbers.
Let’s go through each category and try to get a fresh take (out of the 1, 2, maybe 3 takes available so far) on the best betting angles for this weekend’s prestigious title fixture.
FA Cup Final: Prop Odds and Predictions
Is it healthy to begin a match preview by handicapping prop bets? Why not? It could lend an insight into how the battle is likely to go, and which footballers are apt to make a difference.
Besides, there’s a ton of American gamblers who can’t wait to bet on Christian Pulisic.
Christian Pulisic 1st Goal Scorer (+500) or To Score in Match (+175)
Are too many of Bovada’s goal-scorer prop odds “sucker” lines for supporters who cheer particular players? Pulisic has only scored 9 times in 25 Premiership appearances for Chelsea this season. The young Yankee scored in a Champions League match, but has not tallied in 3 domestic tournament apps.
That’s to take nothing from what the versatile forward-midfielder has accomplished with Blues in 2019-20. Pulisic has never looked better on a pitch than when helping Chelsea to a 2-1 upset win over Manchester City on June 25th, scoring to stake Pensioners to a 1st-half advantage and leading a physical defending effort.
The way Frank Lampard is coaching, all 11 players must be dynamic at every turn, and goals are a natural by-product of teamwork. Few players are singled-out or given hero’s tasks on free kicks and corners.
If I had to pick out a prop bet on a Chelsea shirt to score a goal, it would be N’Golo Kante at (+550). But the best bet on the Bovada Sportsbook prop board is Aubameyang to give Arsenal the 1-0 margin at (+2000) considering that Gunners’ game plan may revolve around getting the striker in space, and since Arsenal will only prevail with a clean sheet if the match is unexpectedly cautious. If things go very differently than our punditry indicates, for-instance a ragged scoreless slog in heavy precipitation, the striker could easily manage a successful run on goal following an hour-plus of frustration for both sides.
Pick: Aubameyang and Arsenal 1-0 (+2000) (1 unit only)
Bonus Prop Picks:
Both teams to score: Yes (Even). It’s almost a given that Arsenal will give up excellent chances to Chelsea, and if Blues indeed break through in the 1st half, Gunners will play with forward numbers in the 2nd.
O/U Corner Kicks: Over (10.5). Chelsea’s methodical style and desperate losses-cutting by the Arsenal back line should combine to produce at least 11 corner attempts.
FA Cup Final Moneyline Pick: Chelsea (+115) vs Arsenal (+230) vs Draw (+240)
Chelsea Football Club probably has at least a 60% chance to become 2019-20 FA Cup champion. However, the chances of Blues winning the war despite drawing the battle of 2 halves may be 10% or 15%, prompting a closer look at the moneyline before the favorites can be touted as a safe pick.
Obviously, the biggest storyline out of Stamford Bridge involves goalkeeping. Kepa has appeared to fall-out with the club and its firebrand manager, leading Lampard to play Willy Caballero over the superstar in crucial 2019-20 tournament and league matches near the end of the campaign. Caballero has played in the EFL Cup Round of 16 and more-surprisingly in Chelsea’s 3-1 FA Cup semifinal win over Man United.
Like a lot of keepers pushing 40 (in both ice hockey and soccer), the Argentine is fine for short time periods when not called-upon to do too much. Kepa’s epic skills will not be handy as a bail-out on Saturday should Blues give up easy chances in the box. But the last 2 times Chelsea has faced teams with similar attacking quality to Arsenal FC, Blues defeated Everton and then Leicester City with clean sheets. Cabellero will be as insulated as a GK can be when leading a young unit against a rival in a gigantic match.
Meanwhile, Arsenal’s back 4 – or back 3 in the 3-4-3 formation preferred by manager Mikel Arteta – continues to ride a roller-coaster. The unit was praised for crafty defending after a 2-0 defeat of Wolves, then gave up a late deciding goal to Tottenham despite 63% ball possession and dozens of stoppages and set-piece opportunities. Arsenal went on to have its best 2-match stretch of 2019-20, beating Liverpool and City by a combined 4-1 score in a league and an FA Cup fixture respectively. But Liverpool was cursed on the attack against Arsenal, and Man City clearly had a terrible day in the latter match. Gunners appeared knackered in a follow-up league loss to Aston Villa and needed 3 goals to get past Watford on Sunday.
We can count on Arsenal’s defenders fitting-into the game plan when Arteta’s tactics are working, and as Nicolas Pépé dribbles the ball around the wing. The clear skies won’t last all day. At some point, Chelsea’s superior quality across the back and in midfield will put the Arsenal box under siege, and then it will be keeper Emiliano Martinez – not the injured Bernd Leno – who will be supremely tested.
I’m recommending a combination-play of 2 units on Chelsea-to-win and 1 unit on Draw. If the match goes to penalties, the Draw win will pay for all 3 bets plus change, while a Chelsea win also brings in a profit.
Pick: Chelsea (2 units) and Draw (1 unit)
Chelsea vs Arsenal Goal Spread and Pick ATS
If you haven’t vibed it already, WagerBop’s prediction is that Chelsea is most likely to win the FA Cup by 1 goal this Saturday. Given the variables that could tamper with such an outcome, betting on the (+/- 0.5) goal spread is risky business on either side of the market at Bovada.
However, our friends at FanDuel Sportsbook are offering a “Handicap Draw” market on a 1-goal Chelsea win prediction. That’s a nice gamble at (+290) payoff odds.
Pick: Handicap Draw (Chelsea (-1))
Over/Under Prediction on the FA Cup Final
Sticking with FanDuel for our final recommendation on the final, it’s notable that the nascent sportsbook is offering a better payoff on Over (2.5) goals (-116) than Under (2.5) goals (-120).
There are many ancillary reasons to think 2-0 or 1-1 is a plausible result. Chelsea has displayed stunning prowess on defense for short stretches, and could choose to consolidate around Cabellero to prevent overtaxing the aging keeper. Arsenal could keep Chelsea so busy defending that any weaknesses in back of the Gunners formation are a moot point for 20 or 30 minutes at a time. Nerves will be on edge and managers loathe to bring forward numbers with an 0-0 score.
But stop and think about the fundamentals. Chelsea and Arsenal supporters have spent large blocks of 2019-20 thinking that their clubs had to go right on attacking. The ingredients were simply not there for 90+ safe, stolid minutes to result in 3 points or advancement. Each club is now down to its 2nd goalkeeper, 1 due to injury and 1 by choice. Neither side has been sparkling without the ball over the last 2-3 weeks.
In a pair of meetings over the winter, Arsenal and Chelsea combined for 7 goals, about 20 on-target shots, around 30 corner kicks, and close to 50 fouls…portentous of a potential penalty or 2 in the final.
Add it all up, and total goals should add up to 3 or more at Wembley.
Pick: Over (2.5)
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.