There is a very good chance that the FA Cup Final on Saturday goes to penalties. Both sets of fans would rather avoid them, but the truth is that 120+ minutes of football between Chelsea or Arsenal could be decided by 10 season-defining spot-kicks.
If it does come down to that, Chelsea fans should be very worried; Chelsea’s penalty shoot-out record in finals is dreadful. Logic suggests that Chelsea should have a 50% win rate in final shoot-outs; reality dictates they have a 33% or 25% win rate, depending on semantics. Chelsea have won one out of three major final shoot-outs with the exception being that night in Munich; however, that record drops to 2/8 when including friendly competitions, such as the Super Cup or Community Shield. Perhaps more worryingly, Chelsea have lost their last 4 such shoot-outs: two Super Cups – to Bayern in 2013 and Liverpool last year, a Community Shield to Arsenal in 2017 and last year’s League Cup to Manchester City.
With that in mind, how should Chelsea prepare for a possible shoot-out in Saturday’s game? Who should take the penalities and who should start in goal?
Jorginho v Hazard
Since Hazard left for Madrid at the end of last season, Jorginho has been our primary penalty taker. Replacing Hazard in any capacity is a momentous task but Jorginho’s unique penalty technique has helped him rise to the challenge. So, how does the Brazillian compare to our former No10.
Hazard, too, has a unique penalty style: before taking his last step he would wait for the keeper dive before calmly slipping the ball into the bottom corner. This technique has helped him score 49/56 non-shootout penalties, including 26/31 at Chelsea. These figures rise by 2 if you penalties he scored in the rebound (I don’t). Jorginho’s technique is similar to Hazard’s but he includes a slight hop before his last step. He has scored 20/21 non-shootout penalties, scoring the other on the rebound, suggesting he is at least as good as Hazard from 12 yards out.
However, when it comes to shootouts, Hazard has scored 6/7 to Jorginho’s 5/7. While this doesn’t seem that much, it means Hazard has a 86% conversion rate in these scenarios – well above the average FA Cup rate of 75.25% since 2010/11 – whereas Jorginho has a 71% conversion rate – slightly below that average.
Moreover, Hazard had a knack for rising to the occasion. He has scored penalties in both the 2018 FA Cup Final and the 2019 Europa League Final; he also scored a Premier League-winning goal from a rebounded penalty against Crystal Palace in 2015. By contrast, Jorginho has missed the most important penalty he has taken to date: in the shoot-out against Manchester City in last year’s League Cup Final.
Despite all this, Jorginho is one of the most clinical spot-kickers in football and so it is likely Lampard employs him to take a penalty in the shootout. Even if he does not start, Lampard could use one of his five normal-time substituions or his one extra-time substitution to bring him on. As our best taker, Jorginho will likely take the first or third penalty. This avoids situations such as in Euro 2012 or the Copa Italia this year, where Ronaldo failed to take a penalty as the shoot-outs and thus the games were lost before the final penalty.
So we’ve established Jorginho will take one penalty but who will take the other four? I asked this exact question on Twitter to an unsuprisingly mixed response; however, a few names came up more than others: Willian, Mount, Azpilicueta and Pulisic. So let’s analyse these one-by one.
Willian has a strong penalty record. He has scored 8/9 non-shootout spot-kicks, including 7/7 for Chelsea and 4/4 this season. Therefore, he must take a penalty if he’s on a pitch after 120 minutes. The problem is that he missed Sunday’s game with Wolves due to an injury so probably won’t be able to play for the full two hours so, unless he comes as a sub, I can’t see him taking one during the shoot-out.
Mount has only ever taken three penalties in his career – all in shoot-outs – against Liverpool in the Super Cup and for Derby against Manchester United and Southampton. He has scored all three. This makes him a solid option for Saturday’s game.
Azpilicueta has always been ice-cold when taking penalties. He netted against Tottenham and Manchester City in last year’s League Cup Semi-Final and Final respectively and against Norwich in the FA Cup the year prior, although he did have one saved in the Europa League Semi-Final against Frankfurt. Regardless, it would be good for our captain to lead by example and bury a penalty against Arsenal.
Pulisic has not taken a lot of penalties in his career but his composure means he’s well suited for the job. He’s also 3 for 3 in penalties taken for the USMNT. Other potential takers include Giroud, who has been absolutely clinical since the restart and Tammy Abraham, who will want vindication after the abuse he suffered for his miss in the Super Cup at the start of the season.
One thing for certain: our options will be much better next season with two first-choice penalty takers, in Werner and potentially Havertz, arriving at the club.
Kepa or Willy?
Chelsea fans will remember the humiliation of the 2019 League Cup Final, where Kepa refused to come off for Willy Caballero. Chelsea lost that shoot-out and it would appear Sarri was justified in his attempt to substitute the Spaniard. Kepa and Caballero have similar records against in-game penalties; Kepa has saved 5 from 16 and Caballero has saved from 11 from 30. However, Caballero has a much superior record in shoot-outs; Kepa has saved 4 from 18, whereas Caballero has saved the same from 7 including 3 out of for Man City in the 2016 League Cup Final v Liverpool.
Taken alongside Kepa’s poor form and the fact Caballero started the Semi-Final v United and the last game of the season against Wolves, it seems certain Willy will be in goal for any potential shoot-out.
However, I, for one, will be hoping it never comes to that. In the end penalty shoot-outs always have an element of chance and I’m hoping Chelsea complete the job in 120 minutes if not 90.