Chelsea thrashed Arsenal 4-1 in an all-English final in the Europa League on Wednesday.
Here AFP Sport looks at three things we learned from the showpiece at Baku’s Olympic Stadium:
Giroud makes most of European chance
Olivier Giroud has found opportunities difficult to come by in the Premier League following his January 2018 move from Arsenal, but the France striker again proved his worth in Chelsea’s Europa League triumph as he finished the competition’s top scorer with 11 goals, one above highly-rated Eintracht Frankfurt sharpshooter Luka Jovic. Giroud has made just 13 league starts in 18 months at Stamford Bridge scoring only twice in the top-flight this season. He recently admitted his frustration at his bit-part role, but his displays on the continent have convinced the club’s hierarchy to extend his deal for another season. The former Gunners forward came back to haunt to his old side with a superb glancing header for the opening goal in Baku, also won a penalty that led to Chelsea’s third goal and then teed up Eden Hazard to complete the rout.
Late season flourish boosts Sarri
Maurizio Sarri’s future as Chelsea boss appeared bleak after goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga refused to be substituted during February’s League Cup final defeat by Manchester City on penalties. Already battling to avoid the sack, the Wembley mutiny further undermined the Italian’s standing and left him apoplectic. Yet Sarri, who has been heavily linked with a move to Juventus, oversaw a notable upturn in fortunes from that point forth, leading the Blues to a third-place finish in the league and a second Europa League crown in seven years. Sarri had stolen the headlines 24 earlier when he angrily stormed off the pitch during a training session but winning the final — his first title as a manager — transformed what he already claimed to be a “very good season” into a “wonderful” one.
Questions persist over Emery
Unai Emery’s Europa League magic ran out in Baku, as he finished on the losing side for the first time in four finals. A promising first 30 minutes from Arsenal quickly faded into a distant memory asChelseablew the Gunners away with a merciless second-half blitz that underlined the magnitude of the task Emery faces as the successor to Arsene Wenger. In a time of transition, the Basque coach has done a steady if unspectacular job, but doubts remain over his ability to lead Arsenal back to past heights after they missed out on Champions League revenue for the third year in a row.
Benfica showed much display of confidence ahead of their Europa League Final clash against Stamford Bridge giants; Chelsea next week.
Allowing several journalists into their Seixal training camp to watch and grant a few interviews can be seen as mind games ahead of the crucial clash.
One of the interviews was with Coach Jorge Jesus who says his main concern is the weekend’s decisive championship clash against fierce rivals Porto and not the Europa League final which will take place in Amsterdam next Wednesday.
“Our priority in terms of objectives is the championship,” he said. “We have been saying this since the first day we started this journey.”
It will be the first European final in 23 years for the Lisbon club, who lost to AC Milan in the European Cup showpiece in 1990, and they have not won a European trophy since the second of their successive European Cups in 1962.
“We are very confident,” said Jesus.
“It’s a step for Benfica to reach their first European final for 23 years. The results we have got so far have taken us to this final. As always we have a lot of respect for Chelsea, but we very confident that we can win it.”
Influential Serbian international Nemanja Matic is ready to show Chelsea what they lost in next week’s Europa League final after he failed to impress in London and was shuttled to Benfica as part of David Luiz’s big-money signing for Chelsea in 2011.
“To tell the truth I don’t have any special feeling because for me that game is like every game in the Portuguese league or in the cup,” said Matic, who played two matches in two years at Stamford Bridge.
“Of course, it’s a final, we play against a good team and me and all the team will be at our best to win.”
This season Matic has earned the nickname “Spider”, because of his long and thin legs, coupled with his agility across the pitch.
He seemed pleased when asked what he thought about the moniker.
“I didn’t know that. Spider!? It is funny,” said the usually serious Serb said with a grin.