Is the FA Cup fixture a formality or do Arsenal have to work hard to achieve back-to-back cup victories?
Arsenal is looking to win the 12th FA Cup in club history, and the Gunners are indeed strong favourites ahead of the final, as they are facing Aston Villa, a side finished 17th in the Premier League this season. Tim Sherwood’s men collected only three points more than Hull, the best team going down, but their main feature for this year was to eliminate Liverpool in the semi to stun punters betting at online sportsbooks in the UK and to reach their first FA Cup final in 15 years.
• Arsenal won the competition 11 times
• Villa looking for seventh cup victory
• Sherwood’s team plays for European football
Arsenal had a similar task twelve months ago, when they had to beat underdogs Hull City, 16th in the Premier League last term, to capture the club’s first trophy in nine years. Interestingly, that match went to overtime after Hull were up by two goals after eight minutes of football. Aaron Ramsey sealed the match for Arsenal in the 109th minute however, but the affair was a lot more exciting than it was expected before the kick-off.
Sherwood fancies a good game
Those who bet on sports in the UK might argue that Aston Villa could prepare for something similar this year. When they defeated Liverpool in the semis, it looked more than impressive, however as the season panned out, it was revealed that even Stoke were able to make fun of the Reds. So beating this Liverpool might be not that big deal at all.
However Tim Sherwood certainly want to surprise Arsenal, the team that put eight goals in the Lions’ net without conceding one in the last couple of Premier League clashes between them. Their last meeting ended in a 5-0 Gunners win in the Emirates, but that happened before Sherwood had replaced his former boss, Paul Lambert, as the manager of Aston Villa.
Sherwood acknowledged that Arsenal, the title holders, are favourites to win the cup, but he emphasized that his team is here to make things as difficult for the Londoners as possible. He did not reveal his Saturday starting line-up in the press conference before the final, but he expressed that he had an idea of who to play and what formation to use against Arsenal.
He said, “The core of it is there but there are still places up for grabs and we have another day of training, but with our track record we will probably lose a couple with injuries.” Villa will miss Ciaran Clark, Chris Herd and Libor Kozak because of injuries, while the inclusion of Shay Given, Kieran Richardson and Jores Okore is in doubt. Sherwood stated that if everything goes all right, he will be able to name the same team as he did before the semifinal.
Wenger has different plans
Arsenal meanwhile will miss Danny Welbeck, and maybe the trio of Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, Mathieu Debuchy and Mikel Arteta won’t be in the squad either, though all of them returned to training recently. Arsene Wenger have to decide whether he want to use the less mobile Olivier Giroud, who provides power, aerial threat and finish in front of the goal or to add some speed to the attacking unit by deploying Theo Walcott to the wing and playing Alexis Sanchez up front.
Given that Villa is vulnerable on the wings and against through balls, plus usually play with a high defensive line; it would be reasonable to go with the latter version. However, as Sherwood will obviously fine tune his team’s approach, Wenger also could expect a deep lying defense with nine or ten outfield players protecting their box. In this case, Giroud would be the better choice as, being a bigger target, he has more chance to bang in balls sent in from the wings.
Anyway, Arsenal being strong favorites at mobile betting operators is no coincidence. Not just because finishing 14 places above Villa in the Premier League and collecting nearly twice as many points as the Lions. Based on the difference in the quality of the two squads and recent performances, Villa could be happy if they managed to avoid a big margin defeat. They play for European football however, which sure provides some extra motivation for them, but to beat this Arsenal seems to be too big a task for them.