30 May 2015

Arsenal look to make history against Aston Villa...

Nineteen appearances. Eleven victories. No other club can boast of such a record. If we win on Saturday, we’ll stand alone atop all other clubs in England in the oldest football competition in the world. Between us and history stands Aston Villa, against whom we’ve administered some embarrassing hidings but against whom we’ve also suffered some humbling defeats.  Although we’ve drubbed the Villans in recent outings, we still have a score to settle—in my mind, at least.

Yes, we’ve thrashed them in our last two meetings, scoring eight and conceding none. However, something in me still craves justice (or is it revenge?) for the 1-3 loss we suffered a 18 months ago. Ignore the fact that Villa have limped through the last legs of the Prem season, suffering an embarrassing 6-1 defeat to Southampton followed by an even-more ignominious 0-1 loss to long-since relegated Burnley. This is a squad that we had better pummel.

“What about Benteke?” you might ask. Fair question. Aston Villa will likely rely on lumping it forward and lobbing cross after cross after cross (after cross), hoping that Benteke will latch onto at least one of them. However, the last time they tried this, sending in 26 crosses, they could only claim three “accurate” crosses en route to a 5-0 defeat. The real battle, though, will be fought in the midfield, where our defensive midfield will try to shut down the service ahead to Benteke in the first place. If the man can’t win the ball in the air, he’s little more than a friendlier Fellaini. If our midfield, with Coquelin and Ramsey shielding the back-four, can shut down Villa’s Delph, Westwood, and Cleverley, well, we won’t have to worry very much about Benteke.

However.

All it takes is one goal. If Villa can find just one goal, well, then, that changes everything. They can then hunker down and defend with all ten players and dare us to score. That would pose a problem, wouldn’t it? In recent weeks, after all, Villa have shown that they can be giant-slayers, beating Liverpool 2-1 to get to the final and almost escaping the Etihad only to lose 3-2. They’ve shown that they can hang tough against the best that the Prem can offer.

While it would be all sunshine and lollipops to suggest that we’ll build on this season’s Prem results, coasting to another comfortable win, we should know from a year ago that form goes out the window when it comes to the FA Cup. We’re the cup-holders, it’s true, but that is not necessarily an advantage. The Villans have to feel like knocking us off would do more than just crown them champions an eighth time—overtaking Chelsea and Liverpool along the way—it would vault them towards the top of the Prem table next season.

However (yes, again), we are on a mission. Having let a second-place finish slip through our fingers, we have to feel like we have some unfinished business to attend to. Villa might feel happy to be at Wembley, or they might feel like they have a chance at something bigger. Shouldn’t matter. Whether it be another nail-biting, last-gasp 3-2 win or a smashing, anticlimactic 5-0 cakewalk, we have to go in with a single, obsessive purpose: win the cup.

LAST 3
Arsenal 5-0 Aston Villa (01.02.2015)
Aston Villa 0-3 Arsenal (20.09.2014)
Aston Villa 1-2 Arsenal (13.01.2014)

FACTFILE
The two clubs first clashed on 8 October 1904, a 1-0 win for Woolwich Arsenal.
The two clubs have only met one other time in the FA Cup—a 3-2 win for Arsenal on 29 January 2012.
Aston Villa have beaten Arsenal just once in nine tries, a record of 1-1-7.

INJURIES
Danny Welbeck has been ruled out. That might be all. Seriously.

POSSIBLE STARTING XI
Sczcesny; Monreal, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Bellerin; Coquelin, Cazorla; Alexis, Özil, Walcott; Giroud.

We should pounce all over Villa and put this one to bed early. That’s not idle boasting, by the way.

PREDICTION 
Arsenal 3-1 Aston Villa