It’s finally here. Villa’s biggest game in a long time. Despite a torrid season, the 2014/15 campaign could go down in the history books if Villa lift the trophy. Arsenal, the holders, have a lot of experience in the competition, but as we saw against Liverpool, anything can happen. Can Sherwood guide his Villa side to glory? The underdog status isn’t necessarily a bad thing…
Arsene Wenger has won the FA Cup five times
Sherwood on Arsenal
“Arsenal are the favourites. They’ve been there and done it before. They are the holders of the trophy. It will be very difficult for us.
“But we’re not going there to make the numbers up. We aim to give them a good game.
“I know what the boys are capable of and they have proved that in this FA Cup run.
“On the big occasions they have produced the goods. They need to do it one more time.
“I think we’ve been underdogs all season. The games – when pressure has been on us – we’ve actually produced – away at Tottenham, at Wembley against Liverpool in the semi-final, that huge game we had in the FA Cup against West Brom.
“We managed to put in good displays and they have been good enough to get us victories so I’m hoping we can do that again.
“This is an opportunity to pick up another trophy for this fantastic football club and for the players to put themselves in the history books. There’s a hero in that dressing room somewhere.”
Wenger on Villa
“You don’t know if it [Villa’s two defeats against Arsenal this season] will have any impact. You are always in a position where you just think, ‘It’s the quality of your game on the day that matters’. You can beat a team 10 times but if you don’t turn up with a good performance on the 11th then you can lose the game.
“I believe the final is a 50:50 and then of course you want to win it and take advantage of your strengths. I just think you focus on preparing the team well for the day because a good preparation breeds confidence and from that confidence you are in a good position to win it.
“They are dangerous in the air, from set-pieces, from crosses, with Benteke who is absolutely magnificent on set-pieces. They have good quality in midfield as well, where they all played very well against Liverpool.
“Grealish, Delph and Westwood – they also have N’Zogbia, players who can make a difference. Overall they are a team who have had a bad spell in the league but, when they need it, they have shown that they have the quality and they have done that against Liverpool.”
29th January 2012 Arsenal 3 Aston Villa 2 (Fourth-Round)
Arsenal mounted a comeback to see off Villa despite McLeish’s men taking a 2-0 lead
Road to the Final
Villa: Blackpool 1-0 (H), Bournemouth 2-1 (H), Leicester 2-1 (H), West Brom 2-0 (H), Liverpool 2-1 (W)
Arsenal: Hull City 2-0 (H), Brighton 3-2 (A), Middlesbrough 2-0 (H), Manchester United 2-1 (A), Reading 2-1 (W)
Form is Temporary
Villa– Last five league matches: W 2, L 3
Arsenal– Last five league matches: W 2, D 2, L 1
Villa have won three out of ten FA Cup matches against Arsenal.
One to Watch
Olivier Giroud– the French striker has scored in each of his last three games against Villa
Facts to Sweep Under the Carpet
Given the state Villa were in when Sherwood arrived it was a momentous achievement to avoid relegation. We ended the season picking up some good results, but the momentum was slightly hampered by our last two losses against Southampton and Burnley.
Despite the miraculous transformation now and again we do get reminders of Villa’s defensive frailties and it’s no surprise that Villa have kept only two clean sheets in our last 21 FA Cup matches.
Heading to the FA Cup final for the first time since 2000, Villa will be looking to upset the odds against holders Arsenal, who will be taking place in a record 19th final.
Their experience is somewhat intimidating and this weekend will be their 40th appearance at a Wembley stadium, old or new, more than any other team – and no others have won more than their 11 FA Cups.
As usual Wenger continues to bare the brunt of Wenger Out chants but his experience in the competition is admirable. He’s won the cup five times as manager, bettered only by Villa’s George Ramsay, who won six.
Also, Sherwood has recently (and inexplicably) let it slip that Benteke has a buy-out clause, which is exactly the sort of thing that could unsettle Villa players on the big day.
“This is an opportunity to pick up another trophy for this fantastic football club and for the players to put themselves in the history books” – Tim Sherwood
What We Pray the Football Gods Will Provide
The magic of the FA Cup is a cliche that gets thrown about but you only have to look at the past few years to see that it’s never easy for the team generally expected to win.
Villa have done tremendously well to stay in the league and get to the final but there’s no doubt Arsenal will be big favourites.
With this in mind, Villa should not give Arsenal any respect – although the high-line seen at Southampton might result in disaster!
Villa have shown they can defend well under Sherwood so hopefully the game-plan will be to stifle Arsenal’s attackers.
All of the eight finals held at the new Wembley have been decided by a one goal margin, and 16 of the last 21 finals have only featured one team scoring.
Such stats point to a cagey encounter and subsequently a defensive approach may be wise.
Arsenal have put eight goals past us this season, so hopefully we see much more defensive resilience on the big occasion.
Villa have kept only two clean sheets in their last 21 FA Cup matches.
Why Villa Have Got This Game in the Bag
Mr. Wenger might have bags of experience in the competition but Villa’s cup history is illustrious. We’ve played in the FA Cup final 10 times, winning seven of those – not a bad win ratio!
Benteke has threatened to leave Villa before but despite the recent revelations about his buy-out clause there have been no bids, as far as we know.
Even if there has been interest in the Belgian, who’s scored three goals in his last three appearances against Arsenal, it’s unlikely to affect the striker’s run of good form.
Arsenal have shown that they can get nervous on big occasions in recent history. They conceded twice against Hull in the final last year and only narrowly beat Reading in the semi-final!
As Sherwood said, Villa players have the chance to become eternal heroes in the eyes of the claret and blue faithful. An FA Cup Final win would provide some much-needed respite after the struggles of recent seasons and would put us on the map as a footballing force again.
Arsenal will be very tough opponents, but it is a one-off game. They boast the recent experience but there’s always the chance they could get complacent as the competition’s holders.
Can we relive the FA Cup glory of 1957 on Saturday afternoon? The Sherwood reign has so far shown us we can go head-to-head with some of the league’s best, so there’s no reason why we can’t get a result against Arsenal.
But never mind the Arsenal. Here’s the Aston Villa.
Follow Lewis on Twitter here
Follow MOMS on Twitter here