Arsenal and Aston Villa go head-to-head at Wembley Stadium in the FA Cup final on Saturday. The Gunners are looking to retain the trophy after last year’s dramatic 3-2 triumph over Hull City while Aston Villa will be contesting their first FA Cup final for fifteen years after their impressive 2-1 win over Liverpool in the last four.
To Win (90mins)
Aston Villa 5/1
To Lift the Trophy
Aston Villa 27/10
Aston Villa were unable to carry momentum into the FA Cup final after suffering a 1-0 loss to relegated Burnley at Villa Park last weekend. The defeat means that Tim Sherwood’s side finished the season in seventeenth spot and will come into Saturday’s Wembley showpiece on the back of two consecutive Premier League defeats. Villa are the sixth most successful FA Cup team, with seven wins from ten appearances. However, much of their success was gained in the early stages of English football. The Villans have won the FA Cup five times, but have not lifted the trophy since 1957. Sherwood’s team have struggled through one of their worst Premier League seasons in their history but their resurgence towards the end of the campaign saw them secure their top flight status as well as reach the FA Cup final for the first time since 2000. Villa defeated Blackpool 1-0, Bournemouth 2-1, Leicester City 2-1, West Brom 2-0, and Liverpool 2-1 to reach the final. Villa’s midfield trio of Fabian Delph, Ashley Westwood and Tom Cleverley run the show for Sherwood’s side but it is up the pitch where they strike fear into their opponents. Christian Benteke is the obvious reason. The Belgian is one of the most physical forwards in England and if Aston Villa are to have a chance against Arsenal, he will certainly have to be a factor. Benteke possesses the physical stature of a centre-half, yet has the composure to get goals, which gives Villa a massive advantage in breaking down teams set up like Arsenal. Goalkeeper Shay Given is a doubt after injuring his groin in training. The Irish international missed Villa’s home loss to Burnley and faces a race against time to regain fitness for the final. Villa’s third-choice goalkeeper Jed Steer played against Burnley but Brad Guzan will regain his place against Arsenal if Given does not make it.
Arsenal finished their Premier League campaign off on a high as they crushed West Brom 4-1 at the Emirates with a Man of the Match display for Theo Walcott, who netted an incredible first-half hat trick. The Gunners will now look to finish Aston Villa off in the same manner as they aim to win the FA cup for the second consecutive season. The defending champions are the joint most successful FA Cup team (along with Manchester United) having won eleven times from eighteen final appearances. This is a record which owes much to the personal achievements of manager Arsene Wenger, who has guided the team to five successes from six finals since he took over in 1996. Arsenal defeated Hull 2-0, Brighton 3-2, Middlesbrough 2-0, Manchester United 2-1, and Reading 2-1 to reach the final. The Gunners come into the match as heavy favourites having recovered from a few disappointing results of late. They only managed to win one of their last five matches, drawing blanks against Swansea and Sunderland and will now feel eager to step back onto the Wembley turf and deal out more damage after such a luxurious display against the Baggies.
Arsenal will not undermine their opponents, especially after Hull City’s impressive showing last year when the Gunners fought back from two goals down to win the competition 3-2 in extra-time. Walcott will be hoping for a starting berth after wowing his manager and teammates with his best performance to date last weekend. Walcott’s pace and movement offers so much, opening up passing angles for Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, and they’re attributes Olivier Giroud scarcely provides. With Giroud now without a goal in his last eight appearances, Wenger must be sorely tempted to start with Walcott against Aston Villa on Saturday. The Gunners have a plethora of weapons in their attack with the likes of Walcott, Sanchez and Ozil leading a lethal team that is superior to Aston Villa in all departments.
VERDICT: Arsenal 5/10
Arsenal have won seven of their last nine meetings against Aston Villa including the last three ties which included a 5-0 thrashing at the beginning of the year. Villa have lost their last two league matches and finished their season in seventeenth place on the table. The Gunners are tipped to reign supreme at 5/10.