Two of England’s most successful FA Cup teams will meet at Wembley on the 30th May to decide which out of the two iconic teams will celebrate lifting the most famous cup trophy in football history. With traditions aplenty, Arsenal and Aston Villa will take to the hallowed turf at tea-time on Saturday evening to contest the FA Cup Final.
While it can’t be denied that over the years, the glamour that was once attached to this fixture has been somewhat diminished by the emergence of the cash-rich Premier League and Champions League, for romanticists FA Cup Final Saturday remains one of the biggest days, if not the biggest day of the English football calendar.
In the final section of this article, we will provide our specific picks for Bet365 for the FA Cup. If you’d like to try out one of the top UK sports betting sites, join up today to claim your $100 Bet365 new player bonus.
A cup tarnished?
Ever since the first FA Cup Final saw Wanderers beat Royal Engineers at the Kennington Oval in front of 2,000 spectators, it was widely regarded as the showpiece of the English season. It’s importance grew markedly over the course of the remainder of the 19th century and by 1900-1901, the final was attended by 110,820, who saw Tottenham and Sheffield United play out a 2-2 draw at the Crystal Palace.
By 1922-23, the final had a new home, Wembley and it would be here that the FA Cup cemented its place as the big fixture of the football season. From 1923 until 2000, with only war intervening, the final was played at the original Wembley Stadium.
In almost all these years, this would be a day when the sole focus for many people was the game. TV channels would dedicate an entire day to coverage (which the BBC are renewing again for the 2015 final). There would be fevered anticipation as the game drew near and people would often spend the entire day in front of the TV waiting for the match to start.
However, in a cash-oriented age, the FA Cup was never about financial rewards and the cup is a poor financial relation to the Premier League and Champions League. As a result, many of those traditions have been lost. The kick off time is now 17:30, to fit in better with TV schedules globally, instead of the traditional 15:00.
There are no FA Cup Final replays any longer, only penalties after extra time, the semi finals are played at Wembley and perhaps most distressing of all for traditionalists, many managers opt to rest their strongest players in the early rounds of the competition for the ‘more important’ Premier League and Champions League games.
The FA Cup may have lost a little of its sheen in modern times but it remains an important day in the calendar and fans of all other 90 football league clubs will be envious of Arsenal and Aston Villa fans taking their seats at the showpiece event.
Let’s take a look now at how both teams reached the final.
Arsenal’s Road to Wembley
- Round 3: (H) v Hull City : 2-0 (Mertesacker, Sanchez)
- Round 4: (A) v Brighton and Hove Albion: W 3-2 (Walcott, Ozil, Rosicky)
- Round 5: (H) v Middlesbrough W 2-0 (Giroud 2)
- Quarterfinal: (A) v Manchester United W 2-1 (Monreal, Welbeck)
- Semifinal: (N) v Reading W 2-1 (aet) (Sanchez 2)
Aston Villa’s Road to Wembley
- Round 3: (H) v Blackpool W 1-0 (Benteke)
- Round 4: (H) v Bournemouth W 2-1 (Gil, Weimann)
- Round 5: (H) v Leicester City W 2-1 (Bacuna, Sinclair)
- Quarterfinal: (H) v West Bromwich Albion W 2-0 (Delph, Sinclair)
- Semifinal: (N) v Liverpool W 2-1 (Benteke, Delph)
Goalkeepers: Wojciech Szczesny, David Ospina
Defenders: Mathieu Debuchy, Kieran Gibbs, Per Mertesacker, Gabriel, Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal, Calum Chambers, Hector Bellerin
Midfielders: Tomas Rosicky, Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere, Mesut Ozil, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla, Mathieu Flamini, Francis Coquelin
Attackers: Olivier Giroud, Danny Welbeck, Theo Walcott, Alexis Sanchez, Serge Gnabry
Probable XI: (4-3-3): Ospina, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Cazorla, Ramsey, Wilshere, Sanchez, Giroud, Ozil
Aston Villa squad
Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan, Shay Given
Defenders: Nathan Baker, Joe Bennett, Ron Vlaar, Jores Okore, Ciaran Clark, Philippe Senderos, Alan Hutton, Aly Cissokho, Matthew Lowton
Midfielders: Leandro Bacuna, Tom Cleverley, Scott Sinclair, Joe Cole, Ashley Westwood, Fabian Delph, Kieran Richardson, Gary Gardner, Carlos Sanchez, Carles Gil, Charles N’Zogbia, Jack Grealish
Attackers: Andreas Weimann, Gabby Agbonlahor, Christian Benteke
Probable XI: (4-5-1): Given, Bacuna, Hutton, Okore, Vlaar, Cleverley, Delph, Westwood, N’Zogbia, Grealish, Benteke
What do the stats say?
If you are an Aston Villa fan looking for hope of a victory in the stats, then you are going to be disappointed.
Arsenal beat Villa 3-0 and 5-0 in the Premier League this season. Villa did beat Arsenal 3-1 at Highbury on the opening day of last season, but that was only their third league victory against the Gunners in the last 33 games between the teams.
You have to go back to 1974, for the last time Aston Villa beat Arsenal in the FA Cup, though they did beat the Gunners in the 1986 and 1993 League Cup.
Arsenal v Aston Villa FA Cup final tips
A glance at the league table and the form of the two teams and it is abundantly clear why Arsenal are the strong 8/15 favourites to defend the trophy that they won last season against Hull City. Bet365 have the draw at 90 minutes a 3/1 shot and an Aston Villa win a long odds 5/1 shout.
Those odds are a tad generous as I think Tim Sherwood’s team, despite their recent 6-1 defeat at Southampton, have been on a much improved trend of late and they are certainly a better side than when the two teams met earlier in the season.
Sherwood will also likely play a high-tempo pressing game against Arsenal, which worked effectively against Liverpool in the semi-final. If his players can follow that to the letter and deny Arsenal space on that big Wembley pitch they have a chance.
However, I think Arsenal are struggling for confidence in front of goal at present so I think that the draw at 90 minutes at 3/1 is a good bet to consider.
You can back a 1-1 draw at the end of 90 minutes at 13/2 with Bet365, which I think is a good shout for two teams that will attempt to nullify the key threats of the opposition.