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FA CUP FINAL PREVIEW: Arsenal v Aston Villa; What Did She Wear?

When the 2014/15 season kicked off and the season went through it’s initial fitful stages and moved into the turn of the year, we talked about where Arsenal could finish the year. The hunt for second after a woeful start of the season kept us out of the title chase in reality and it was only the hope of retaining our FA Cup title that lingered.

Well, as the calendar flips to tomorrow the Arsenal. . . our Arsenal will once again feature in the prestigious showpiece that is the FA Cup final at Wembley stadium. It is a competition, that while many try to diminish still holds special value in the hearts of many Gunners.

As of today Arsenal and Manchester United have won this competition the most with 11 titles each.  The first taste of Cup glory in 1930 and the last was the end to our silverware drought last year. Prior to last season’s cup win, We all heard ad nauseum that it had been 9 years since our last silverware was this very cup. Fast forward a year and we are on the precipice of retaining and the cup and making a little history of our own.

Wenger has won the tournament now five times with Arsenal. Two of them tied to double-winning seasons. A win on Saturday makes Arsenal the most winning side in FA Cup history.

For a while some argued Wenger had lost his love for this cup. If Arsenal win tomorrow Wenger is tied for first with scotsman Gordon Ramsay as the winningest manager for the FA Cup.  Like last season, Wenger made the cup a priority and we all hope tomorrow, that focus pays off.

The importance of winning the FA Cup can’t just be brought down to winning silverware. It also can work as a platform to build on for more. Looking back to the disastrous season when Arsenal were in for the League Cup, the Champion’s League, FA Cup and title, then went on to lose the League Cup final and everything else within a span of a few weeks, winning a cup can have quite the opposite effect.

Players need to know they can win. Sure, some of the players here have won things elsewhere, but collectively this team hasn’t won anything together. They need to experience that as one. It will be a growth moment for many of the team’s younger stars. It can have a solidifying effect and propel the club forward as they begin to understand the focus needed to win.

Mikel Arteta said it best last season:

“I think when you get to that line and you win, it creates a lot of confidence and builds something special. It will be something special between the players, the fans, the staff.

“Then suddenly you have the Community Shield to play for, which is another trophy and the ball is rolling. In my opinion this is something else than just a final and a trophy.”

The path to this cup final has been a difficult one. Arsenal have had to face stiff opposition. In their run, they had last season’s finalists Hull City, Brighton-Hove Albion, a high flying Middlesborough, Manchester United and then Reading in the semi-final. The trip to Old Trafford the moment of our FA Cup  run. The 2-1 win in a place they hadn’t won in ages, solidified Arsenal as favorites to reach the final again.

The point is they’ve shown throughout this run that they are focused on achieving something. They now need to encapsulate that everything they gave to the cup run and to the second half of a rather fitful season to bring it all home and retain the cup.

We have seen at moments through this season that this current squad at their best this Arsenal squad were untouchable. At their worst . . . well, we all know how it was. The closing run of the last few games hasn’t been stellar but it hasn’t been woeful. The fact is Arsenal were healthy and able to call on their best players and that led to Arsenal

Some will look at this and think it’s too easy. Hull last season showed us otherwise. Getting off to a good start his match can’t be overlooked. Tim Sherwood has said he plans on going toe to toe with Arsenal which could mean he expects to play open which would benefit us. With a week off and a majority of our best players available we have a plethora of choices to make up the FA Cup squad. Essentially, I look for Wenger to be consistent with his selection and only change out Szczesny for Ospina (regardless of the Pole’s father’s idiotic comments) and keep everything else the same. While some will groan at the prospect of an out of form Giroud up top and Ramsey on the wing – the other rationale for the likes of Walcott and Wilshere on the bench is to have something to go to if by any chance the match needs a change.

As for our opponents, Villa haven’t been exactly flying of late and even though they’ve improved under Sherwood, this isn’t a team we can’t or shouldn’t beat. That being said,  it would be wrong though for anyone to overlook them. Arsenal need to show them all the respect of a team that got to a final. They need to view Villa as if they were a top team and attack them. While nerves will likely cause the game to be a little slow to start but once Arsenal have their style going or understand how Villa intend to play them, they need to go for it.

Sherwood’s charges have shown they can upset a party by raining on Steven Gerrard’s planned birthday festivities that were supposed to be happening as part of the FA Cup final and his final season in the Premier League.  Part of the game hinges on whether or not Villa can defend. In the closing weeks of the season Southampton ran riot over Villa with a 6-1 win and then recently relegated Burnley beat them 1-0. Either Villa had their eye on Wembley early or as good as Sherwood’s charges seemed to improve that haven’t actually gone too far forward.

As Arsenal supporters we shouldn’t expect that Villa to come out as limp as they did in those recent matches. This is a cup final and they will want to go down in history mark their place as title holders and as giant killers.

There is glory to be had. Arsenal have to win this to begin to truly reestablish themselves as one of the preeminent teams in England. We’ve gotten back a to winning a cup. Winning the FA Cup AGAIN in two successive seasons, is in my opinion the first step to getting back to where we need and deserve to be.

YAMA Prediction:
Arsenal 3 – 1 Aston Villa


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