This Saturday sees Arsenal and Aston Villa go head to head in the oldest cup competition in world football in search of FA Cup glory at Wembley. Aston Villa go into the Final having spoilt Stephen Gerrard’s fairy-tale ending with a 2-1 victory over Liverpool, whilst Arsenal benefited from a Federici error to defeat Reading 2-1.
History could be made this weekend as Arsenal seek to become the most decorated club in FA Cup history. Wenger’s men will be hoping to repeat last year’s success in the competition where they ended a 9-year trophy drought, as Aaron Ramsey’s strike in extra-time sealed a 3-2 victory against Hull City.
Both teams are going into the game on the back of a disappointing end to the season. Arsenal with one win from their final four games, finished third in the league, whilst Aston Villa managed to avoid relegation by finishing seventeenth but ended the season with a disappointing 1-0 loss at home to relegated, Burnley.
Arsenal vs Aston Villa combined XI
Arsenal vs Aston Villa combined XI
1/11 Wojciech Szczesny (Arsenal)
While David Ospina has usurped Szczesny's spot in the Premier League, the towering Pole has been an ever-present in the Gunners' FA Cup campaign and is likely to regain his place. Shay Given, who should line up for Villa, has acquitted himself well in the cup, but shipped five first-half goals to Southampton in the Premier League in his most recent outing.
2/11 Hector Bellerin (Arsenal)
Bellerin has been one of the finds of the season for Arsene Wenger, the 20-year-old displacing Calum Chambers as first-choice right-back following Mathieu Debuchy's injury troubles. Leandro Bacuna, who should start for Villa, has offered plenty going forward but his defending has personified a leaky back four.
3/11 Per Mertesacker (Arsenal)
The German centre-back has had his critics this season, and admitted that his form suffered after he came back victorious from the World Cup. However, he has been integral to the Gunners' run of just 11 goals conceded in the final 18 Premier League games. Villa's own World Cup star, Ron Vlaar, suffers in comparison.
4/11 Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal)
It was no coincidence that Arsenal's defence looked vulnerable in the early season, when the Frenchman was missing with an achilles injury. Koscielny is much more mobile than his defensive partner, and has been in fine form since Christmas. Jores Okore, who missed last season for injury, has at aleast had a run of games for Villa, but remains too error-prone to challenge his opposite number.
5/11 Nacho Monreal (Arsenal)
The Spanish left-back has made the position his own after Kieran Gibbs struggled for form and fitness. Struggled in the middle, but has been a solid, calming influence and deceptively good going forward. His opposite number Kieran Richardson has been in and out of the side in a frustrating first season at Villa Park.
6/11 Francis Coquelin (Arsenal)
It is unfortunate for Ashley Westwood, who has been one of Villa's more underrated and consistent performers this season, to come up against Coquelin. The Frenchman has been one of the Premier League's breakout stars, and has been compared to a £40m by Wenger.
7/11 Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal)
Ramsey hasn't had quite the impact he made during a sensational 2013/14 season, but has scored 10 goals in all competitions and when fit remains one of English football's most effective midfielders. Tom Cleverley finished the season in fine goalscoring form, but spent much of the campaign struggling for consistency.
8/11 Santi Cazorla (Arsenal)
Fabian Delph broke into the England side at the start of the season, but struggled to maintain form and fitness despite some energetic displays. Cazorla, on the other hand, has been superb for the Gunners, playing 52 games in all competitions and pulling the strings in the side's best displays of the season.
9/11 Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)
He has been overshadowed in large parts by the club's more recent big-money signing, Alexis Sanchez, but Ozil has put in a string of influential, classy displays in the second half of the season. Charles N'Zogbia, who is likely to start for Villa, remains an inconsistent, mercurial figure.
10/11 Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal)
Jack Grealish may have earned plaudits in the final weeks of the season for his promising displays, but Alexis Sanchez has enjoyed one of the best debut seasons in Premier League history, contributing 16 goals and eight assists. Despite a post-Christmas dip in form, the Chilean is the real deal.
11/11 Olivier Giroud (Arsenal)
Yes, Christian Benteke has finished the season in absurdly good form, with 12 goals in 12 games. And yes, Giroud's shooting boots deserted him in spectacular style against Monaco. However, the Frenchman, who has had more than his fair share of critics, has scored more goals in less games this season than Benteke, who struggled woefully for goals until Tim Sherwood took the reigns at Villa. Giroud is harder working, brings teammates into the game better and just gets the nod over his opposite number.
But under the leadership of Sherwood, Villa have found a new sense of purpose, overcoming three Premier League teams on route, in addition to a Bournemouth side that will be joining them in the top flight next season.
Aston Villa will be hoping that the competition’s reputation of producing surprising results is brought to life on Saturday afternoon bearing in mind they finished the League 37 points from Arsenal adrift which included two defeats which amounted to an eight goal deficit.
Arsenal will be hoping that their League form against the Birmingham side continues, whilst a victory for Villa would produce another instalment of FA Cup shocks.
KICK-OFF: Saturday, 5.30pm
PAST THREE MEETINGS
Arsenal 5 (Giroud, Özil, Walcott, Cazorla, Bellerin) Aston Villa 0, Premier League, February 2015
Arsenal 3 (Özil, Welbeck, Cissokho OG) Aston Villa 0, Premier League, September 2014
Arsenal 2 (Wilshere, Giroud) Aston Villa, Premier League, January 2014
Only two clubs since 1990 have won back-to-back FA Cup’s - Arsenal in 2002 and 2003 and Chelsea in 2009 and 2010.
Aston Villa have kept just two clean sheets in their last 21 FA Cup matches.
Only George Ramsay (6 with Aston Villa) has won the FA Cup as a manager more times than Arsene Wenger (5).
Christian Benteke has scored three goals in his last three appearances against Arsenal.
This will be Arsenal's 19th FA Cup final, a record for any team, and have won a joint-high 11 FA Cup finals
Arsenal have won 22 and lost just three of the last 34 matches in all competitions against Aston Villa (W22 D9 L3).
Arsenal to win: 1.57
Aston Villa to win: 7.0
The last time these teams met in the FA Cup was a fourth-round tie in January 2012. Arsenal were 2-0 down going into half-time with goals from Richard Dunne and Darren Bent. But three goals in seven minutes turned the tie upside down. One from Walcott and a brace from Robin van Persie from the spot saw Arsenal win a thrilling FA Cup tie, 3-2.
TV: Live on BBC One and BT Sport 1 at 5.30pm, highlights on BBC1 at 10.50pm, Saturday.Reuse content