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N’Golo Kanté’s unusual mistake shows up careless Chelsea in FA Cup final | Paul Wilson

Chelsea’s player of the year was partly to blame for Arsenal’s first goal on a day when the champions looked out of sorts

Carelessness is not a word that has been applied to Chelsea very often this season, yet the champions began this final a little too laid back for their own good. They were behind after five minutes as a result, and player of the season N’Golo Kanté was partly to blame. Not for the attempted clearance that struck Alexis Sánchez and allowed the Chilean to run on and beat Thibaut Courtois, but for coughing up possession to allow Arsenal to threaten in the first place. Courtois had just made a routine catch from Mesut Özil’s early corner and bowled the ball out for Kanté to get an attack moving, only to see the normally reliable midfielder lose his bearings just outside his own penalty area to let Arsenal steal in.

It could not be said the error led directly to the goal but it was an ominously lackadaisical start by a side that has been noted for its smartness and precision all season. By the mid-point of the first half, by which time Gary Cahill had already been forced to clear off the line from Özil and Danny Welbeck had hit a post with a header from a corner, it was beginning to look as if Chelsea’s imperious march to the title had just been an illusion. It was either that or Arsène Wenger had simply been saving Arsenal’s best performance of the season as a means of answering his critics.

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