Arsenal will be confident of retaining their FA Cup trophy when they square off against Aston Villa in this year’s final at Wembley on Saturday (17:30 BST, live on BB1).
Arsenal come into the match on the back of four wins, three draws and one defeat in their last eight matches in all competitions. They finished the Premier League season in third place, with 75 points from 22 wins, nine draws and seven defeats.
Arsene Wenger’s (pictured) side ended their league campaign with an impressive 4-1 victory at home to West Bromwich Albion. They scored all four of their goals in the first half of a match in which they easily outshot their visitors, created numerous good chances and emerged victorious thanks to a hat-trick from Theo Walcott and a single strike from Jack Wilshere.
It was a strong end to a season in which Arsenal again finished in the top four and therefore secured their 16th consecutive season of Champions League football. They made a relatively slow start to the campaign but really picked up from the turn of the year onwards, scoring nine more points and doubling their goal differential in the second half of the season.
The emergence of Francis Coquelin – who made 18 of his 19 starts in 2015 – as a highly competent defensive midfielder helped bring more balance to Wenger’s side. They scored three more goals in the second half of the season but conceded a full 10 less than before the turn of the year. There looks to be an excellent base to build on for next season.
Wenger will definitely be without the injured Danny Welbeck (knee) for the short trip to Wembley, while Mathieu Debuchy (hamstring) and Mikel Arteta (calf and ankle) are both doubtful.
Aston Villa travel south on the back of four wins, one draw and three defeats in their last eight matches in all competitions. They finished the Premier League season in 17th place, three points above the drop-zone, with 38 points from 10 wins, eight draws and 20 defeats.
Tim Sherwood’s side ended their league campaign with a rather drab 1-0 defeat at home to Burnley last Saturday. The visitors took an early lead and Villa were unable to produce an equaliser despite dominating both possession and the shot count thereafter. They created some presentable chances but were unable to provide a finishing touch.
Villa had already secured their Premier League safety with a run of three wins in four league matches between early April and early May and could thus afford to lose on the season’s ultimate weekend. Many of the players appeared to already have their minds firmly set on the cup final. It was not a particularly bad performance, just one that lacked a little intensity.
It would otherwise be hard to find fault with the job that Sherwood has done since he replaced the sacked Paul Lambert in mid-February. Pre-Sherwood, Villa had an average goal difference per match of -0.88 and had taken just 0.88 points per game. Under the former Tottenham Hotspur coach, those figures improved to -0.31 and 1.23 points per game.
Sherwood will definitely be without the injured Ciaran Clark (knee), Chris Herd (knee) and Libor Kozak (back) for Saturday’s showpiece, while Jores Okore (knee), Kieran Richardson (calf) and Shay Given (groin) are doubtful.
Arsenal v Aston Villa FA Cup Final Preview’s Betting Tips
Arsenal were comfortable 5-0 and 3-0 victors in this season’s league fixtures between the sides. The Gunners have won six of the last eight meetings in all competitions, including a 3-2 victory the last time the two sides met in the FA Cup, back in the fourth round of 2012. Villa have won just twice in the last 30 encounters between the sides in all competitions.
Arsenal needed extra time to overcome Championship side Reading in the semi-finals. They had previously seen off Manchester United, Middlesbrough, Brighton and Hull City on route to Wembley. The Gunners are the FA Cup holders and could become the most successful club in the competition’s history by winning it for the 12th time this weekend.
Villa were excellent in defeating Liverpool 2-1 in the semi-finals, having previously seen off West Brom, Leicester City, Bournemouth and Blackpool, and will fancy their chances of causing another upset now. This despite the fact that the last of their seven FA Cup triumphs came in 1957, while they haven’t won a major trophy in going on 20 years.
Arsenal are obviously the strong favourites with the bookies and should be fancied to take home the trophy for a second consecutive year. So our FA Cup Final preview betting tips are:
- Back Arsenal -1 on the Asian Handicap @ best odds of 5/6 with Ladbrokes, BetVictor or Unibet. The bet pays out if they win by two or more goals, while your stake is returned if they win by just one.
- Nine of the last 10 matches between these sides in all competitions have seen three or more goals during normal time, as did Villa’s semi-final win over Liverpool. Arsenal defeated Hull City in extra time in last year’s final after the sides had shared four goals during normal time. Back over 2.5 goals @ best odds of 11/13 with Ladbrokes.