. arsenal-logo31Aston Villa FC LogoARSENAL

VS

ASTON VILLA

May 30th, 2015; 17.30 GMT

Wembley Stadium, London

*****

 

FA Cup holders Arsenal take on Aston Villa in the FA Cup final on 30th May, with the Gunners looking to win a record 12th title and subsequently become the most successful side in the history of the 143-year-old competition. It won’t be an easy task for Arsenal, who found it tough against Hull City in the final last season, as they face a resurgent Aston Villa. The Villains have been in spectacular form since Tim Sherwood took over as manager. They were particularly brilliant in the semi-final and beat favorites Liverpool for a spot in the final of the competition.

Team News & Tactical Brief

Arsenal

Arsenal will be without Danny Welbeck due to a knee injury but otherwise should be at full strength. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mathieu Debuchy and captain Mikel Arteta have returned to training and are in contention for a spot in the final. Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny is expected to retain his place ahead of David Ospina.

Arsenal reached the final of the tournament quite comfortably. Their (only) big match came in the quarter-finals at Old Trafford. ArsA?ne Wengera s side headed into the match as underdogs given their recent poor record against the Red Devils. However, goals from Nacho Monreal and former United man Danny Welbeck (a winner, that too) ensured they progressed to the semi-finals. It was thought that Arsenal were going to reach the final easily when they were picked against Reading. However, the Royals did extremely well to come back in the game after Arsenal bossed the first half. Garath McCleary cancelled out Alexis Sanchez’s first half goal and the game headed into extra time. Unfortunately for Reading, a howler from goalkeeper Adam Federici at the end of first half of extra-time meant that Arsenal found themselves in back to back FA Cup finals.

Last year, Aaron Ramsey’s extra time winner ended Arsenal’s nine-year trophy drought. This year, the side could also have to work very hard to help Wenger overtake Sir Alex Ferguson as the competition’s most successful manager of the modern era. What’s more important, though, is that Arsenal need a win to make this season a successful one. Despite improving on a fourth placed finish from last season, they ended with lesser points on the table (75 as opposed to 13/14’s 79); failed to launch a title bid, once again; crashed out of the Champions League in the round of 16 and out of the League Cup in the third round itself. The FA Cup therefore represents the only hope of labelling this season as a successful one because qualifying for the Champions League has now become an expectancy from the Gunners.

Theo Walcott would want a place in the final after scoring a hat-trick against West Brom.

Theo Walcott would want a place in the final after scoring a hat-trick against West Brom.

Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere were both brilliant against West Brom and are pushing for a starting spots for the final. Wenger is left with some difficult team decisions to make, but the Frenchman would rather have these problems. Walcott played the striker role and it will be between him and Olivier Giroud for a role up front, with Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil playing behind, on the left wing and No.10 position respectively. Aaron Ramsey has been playing on the right recently and it will either be him or Jack Wilshere on that right flank. The midfield duo is likely to comprise Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla. If Villa play a high line in this match, Arsenal could hope to find a Southampton blue-print and try to exploit the back with swift movements from the attackers. Bellerin, Koscielny, Mertesacker and Monreal are likely to be the back-line for Wenger with Szczesny expected to continue his role as the cup goalkeeper ahead of David Ospina.

Predicted Line-up (4-2-3-1): Szczesny; Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Cazorla, Coquelin; Ramsey, Ozil, Sanchez; Giroud

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Aston Villa

The Villains have been very good since Tim Sherwood took over and will be optimistic about their chances in the game despite entering it as underdogs. In their first appearance in an FA Cup final for 15 years, a win could end a painful 19 year trophy drought.

Villa’s XI ahead of this one is nowhere close to settled, with injuries and selection issues dogging Tim Sherwood’s preparations. Sherwood has shown an inclination to field Shay Given in goal for cup matches, but for this match, Brad Guzan will be picked due to Given’s groin injury. In defence, Jores Okore or Nathan Baker will partner Ron Vlaar. Centre-back Ciaran Clark has been sidelined for six weeks and will miss the FA Cup final. Kieran Richardson would start as left-back but his availability is not assured which means that Alan Hutton could start as left-back. Bacuna will start as the right back.

The midfield, likely to comprise Westwood, Delph and Cleverly, will be looking to prevent the likes of Ozil, Cazorla and Ramsey from controlling the game in the middle of the pitch. The heart of the field is extremely important for the Villains as domination in the second half of the field could mean the game is tilted in Villa’s favor. In the semi-final against Liverpool, Aston Villa made sure the likes of Jordan Henderson and Steven Gerrard were unable to get control of the midfield, which was influential in their comprehensive win over the Reds.

Youngster Jack Grealish has been a phenomenon recently and will be expected to deliver on this big occasion

Youngster Jack Grealish has been a phenomenon recently and will be expected to deliver on this big occasion

Youngster Jack Grealish was phenomenal against Liverpool and there would be some weight on his shoulders to deliver in this big game. Grealish has been seen to drift from behind the striker to the left. Benteke needs crosses (as Sherwood cleverly put asking the Belgian not to leave for Liverpool, “where they don’t cross the ball”) and Grealish, and Delph both drift to the left and cross to Benteke, who feeds off them with efficiency (recent goalscoring record illustrates that). Up front, Sherwood is likely to opt for Gabriel Agbonlahor and Christian Benteke. A cup win could definitely help Sherwood convince Benteke to stay with the club.

Predicted Line-up (4-3-1-2): Given; Bacuna, Vlaar, Baker, Richardson; Cleverley, Westwood, Delph, Grealish; Agbonlahor, Benteke

Key stats:

  • Aston Villa have played in the FA Cup final 10 times, winning seven. They last won the FA Cup in 1957, beating West Bromwich Albion (in the semi-finals) along the way.
  • This will be Arsenala s 19th FA Cup final, a record for any team, and have won a joint-high 11 FA Cup finals.
  • Only George Ramsay (six with Aston Villa) has won the FA Cup as a manager more times than Arsene Wenger (five).
  • The last FA Cup meeting between these two sides came in 2012, when Villa led 2-0 at half-time only to see the Gunners overturn the deficit in a seven-minute period in the second half to record a 3-2 win.

(via Opta)

Player to look out for:

Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal)

Alexis Sanchez scored 24 goals in 51 matches in a remarkable debut season. The attacker won the PFA fansa player of the season and beat Eden Hazard and Sergio AgA?ero to the accolade . His choice of moving to Arsenal instead of Liverpool, would be justified completely if he picks up a trophy in his first year with the Gunners. The Chilean will probably play on the left wing and would be a handful for Leandro Bacuna and the others in Sherwood’s defence.

Score Prediction

Arsenal 2 Aston Villa 1 (decided in extra-time)

Expect Villa to give everything in this game. With Sherwood at helm, you can expect the side to be pumped for the tie. The Gunners returned to fine form on the final day of the season and they should be able to do enough to retain the trophy.

Blast from the past