Having limped over the Premier League line, the Villans will end their season with tomorrow’s trip to Wembley, where they will face the Gunners in the FA Cup final.
Between them, the sides have featured in twenty-eight FA Cup finals and won eighteen of them but this will be their first meeting in the final. The sides last met in the FA Cup back in 2012, in the fourth round, when the Villans threw away the lead and the Gunners won 3-2 at The Emirates.
Wenger’s men have certainly had the measure of the Villans in the Premier League this season, scoring eight times without reply against the boys from B6. However, that was when Paul Lambert was in the hot seat. Despite Sherwood’s passion and energy, we have to accept that the Villa boys will be the underdogs against the holders, who boast a technically superior side. Nevertheless, ‘cupsets’ are nothing new and the Villans, whose last-gasp win over Blackpool set them on the road to Wembley, know that fortune favours the brave in the world’s oldest cup competition.
Tim Sherwood has insisted that the pressure is all on the FA Cup holders, who will be aiming to become the competition’s most successful team with a twelfth win in their nineteenth appearance. It is likely that Sherwood will opt for preferred 4-4-2 formation to shore up the midfield, allow his strikers, Benteke and Agbonlahor, attacking freedom, and hope that his side can pick off their opponents on the counter.
Although only three teams have won the FA Cup more often than the Villans, as we are painfully aware, they last lifted the FA Cup fifty-eight years ago, when Peter McParland was the hero of the day. Their last appearance in the FA Cup final was fifteen years ago, when Di Matteo secured a Chelsea victory mid-way through the second half. Sherwood will be hoping to go one better than John Gregory tomorrow afternoon.
Whatever happens, the road to Wembley has been a shining light in an otherwise forgettable season for Sherwood’s side. Football is like photography of old, when we needed the negatives to develop. We have had plenty of negatives in recent years so let’s back the boys and help them to show that they have developed into real contenders to lift the FA Cup.
Up the Villa!
Arsenal: W D D L W
Aston Villa: L L W W L
Team news – Aston Villa:
Shay Given missed the Burnley game with a groin injury but is back in training and should be available for selection.
Kieran Richardson, who also missed last weekend’s game, is expected to have recovered in time for the final.
Jores Okore is suffering from a knee injury and is unlikely to feature in the showpiece.
Ciaran Clark’s knee injury will keep him out of action.
Libor Kozak remains a long term absentee.
Richardson Vlaar Baker Bacuna
Cleverley Westwood Delph
Team news – Arsenal:
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mathieu Debuchy have both returned to training following hamstring injuries but may not be deemed match fit. Oxlade-Chamberlain made a cameo appearance against West Bromwich Albion so is more likely to be named in the match day squad than Debuchy, who has been out of action since January.
Arsenal captain Mikel Arteta is thought to be nearing full fitness after his ankle injury but it is unlikely he will feature, after missing most of the season.
Danny Wellbeck is suffering from a bruised knee and will not feature.
Theo Walcott, who scored a hat-trick last weekend, has given Wenger a selection dilemma and will compete with Olivier Giroud for a starting place in the final.
Referee: Jonathon Moss
Venue: Wembley Stadium
Last meeting: 1st February 2015: Arsenal 5 – Aston Villa 0
2-0 – Mark Lawrenson
1-2 – AnneMc
Wembley pub guide:
If you haven’t finalised your plans for tomorrrow, check out our handy guide to where to drink at Wembley here.
Wherever you go, whatever you do, have a great day!