Can legendary Arsene Wenger enter FA Cup lore with record-breaking FA Cup win?
There is no competition like the FA Cup and no Arsenal manager has tasted the nectar of success in the world’s oldest cup competition more times than Arsène Wenger. I’ve always thought there was something Kafkaesque about aspersions cast over how seriously the manager takes this competition.
Prioritising the long term financial future of this club over cup competitions was upbraided vociferously by some of the fan base and thus the myth that Wenger is content to just finish fourth each season was born and perpetuated.
Arsène Wenger is about to manage his 7th FA Cup final, an enormous feat in itself, and attempt to win the trophy for a record equalling 6th time. Aston Villa won 6 of their 7 FA Cups under the 42-year management of George Ramsay and I guess there is some poetry in the Premier League’s longest serving active manager equalling the FA Cups wins record of – were it not for West Brom’s Fred Everiss – the longest serving manager in English football against the team he served so well and for so long.
“I believe that going to Wembley is always a special occasion. I’ve had the luck to be there many times and for us it’s an opportunity to finish our season on a high and to reward the whole team with a trophy. That’s what you want to achieve” – Arsène Wenger
This adds extra incentive for Aston Villa to do well, who need little extra motivation to win their first trophy since 1996 – months before Wenger joined Arsenal. We can also add to the ever growing list of cute hints of kismet the Arsenal roots of the Aston Villa manager.
Not only would a win here represent Arsenal’s 12th – and record setting – cup win it would also be Wenger’s 6th which would make him managerially responsible for 50% of Arsenal’s cup successes. How anyone could believe for a second he doesn’t rate the FA Cup or that it doesn’t mean that much to him I cannot fathom. You don’t get to 7 FA Cup finals and win 5 of them with a chance to win a 6th if you don’t care about or rate the competition.
The League Cup, I can understand that sentiment as he has, in the main, used it as an educational exercise for his younger charges but not the FA Cup. This man loves the FA Cup and has always shown it the utmost respect in balanced context. Put it this way, he’s never withdrawn from it to play in a glorified PR exercise.
Arsenal are in back to back FA Cup finals for the second time – or third, depending on how you look at it – and once again they enter as favourites. Retaining a trophy is quite different to winning it anew and the pressure will really be on Arsenal to make this a much more comfortable affair than last time around.
Wenger has a full roster of players to call upon aside from Welbeck who hasn’t recovered from his knee injury and the big question is whether or not Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott have played their way into the starting line-up. I wrote recently about why I would start Theo, move Ramsey back to the centre, who would miss out and why I came to that conclusion and you can read about that here rather than duplicating it in this preview.
Benteke will be the danger man for Villa so Arsenal will have to be wary of letting too many crosses into the box. As good as Mertesacker and Koscielny have been this season – helping Arsenal to their best goals conceded tally in 7 seasons despite an early injury crisis – Benteke is exactly the sort of aerial beast to take advantage of the slightest glimmer of weakness or hopeful half chance.
Villa staggered to safety this season and lost their last two games of the league season so aren’t in the best shape but Arsenal should not be complacent – this won’t be a cakewalk.
This final should not induce the nerves it did in the players last season so I am expecting a much more positive start and if they can achieve that then I see no reason Arsène Wenger won’t claim his 6th winners’ medal and go down as possibly one of, if not the greatest manager in FA Cup history.
I’m nervously confident (I realise that’s an oxymoron) about this match but whatever happens I think we can safely say Wenger belongs in the annals of FA Cup legends.
Arsenal from; Ospina, Szczesny, Bellerin, Debuchy, Gibbs, Monreal, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Koscielny, Chambers, Rosicky, Oxlade-Chamberlain Wilshere, Flamini, Coquelin, Özil, Ramsey, Alexis, Cazorla, Walcott, Giroud.
Predicted Arsenal XI
Ospina, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Özil, Ramsey, Alexis, Cazorla, Giroud. I expect to see substitute appearances from Walcott, Wilshere and Rosicky.
Last three meetings
- Arsenal 5-0 Aston Villa (01.02.2015)
- Aston Villa 0-3 Arsenal (20.09.2014)
- Aston Villa 1-2 Arsenal (13.01.2014)
Arsenal Last 5: WDDLW
Aston Villa Last 5: LLWWL
Aston Villa were heading for relegation when Arsenal beat them 5-0 in February but then Tim Sherwood came in and got them firing again. Having struggled for goals all season all of a sudden they were banging them in and scalping teams like Liverpool and Tottenham whilst running Chelsea and Manchester City very close.
Tim Sherwood hasn’t quite fixed their defensive issues and this presents a cohesive and focused Arsenal with a clear chance to win this comfortably. However, Sherwood has improved their quality in possession and their effectiveness in attack so any sloppy play from Arsenal could easily be capitalised on by a team desperate to have a springboard next season, and some European football, and a manager keen to prove he isn’t just talk.
Make no mistake, this Villa team is a dangerous side to face in a final and we underestimate them and count our eggs at our peril.
- Aston Villa have not won the FA Cup for 58 years
- Arsenal have not won an FA Cup final for 54 weeks
- The Gunners will become the 4th side to win the cup back to back twice if they claim the trophy
- Arsenal hold the record for the most final appearances and a win will make them the most successful FA Cup team with 12 wins
- Arsenal are unbeaten in 11 FA Cup fixtures
- Ex-Spurs manager Tim Sherwood would become the first English manager to win the FA Cup since another Ex-Spurs manager, Harry Redknapp, won it with Portsmouth in 2008
I’m going to be bold and predict a 3-0 win for the Gunners. Come on Arsenal! What did she wear?