It's been a long road to get to this point, but we've finally arrived at the FA Cup Final. For Arsenal, anything less than a chance at silverware most likely would have been seen as a disappointment this season, though Arsene Wenger's side did put in one of their best Premier League campaigns in the past couple years to finish just a shade off of second place. The addition of Alexis Sanchez and the emergence of other players like David Ospina and Francis Coquelin have helped round out a squad that has had issues with depth in recent years, and the Gunners look primed to finish this campaign with a flourish as they head into the short summer before Premier League and Champions League action resumes in the fall.
For Aston Villa, it's been a less successful campaign by many accounts, but the turnaround after the appointment of Tim Sherwood as manager has been staggering. The Villa boss managed to take the club from the brink of relegation to safety, restore confidence for Christian Benteke and even made Scott Sinclair look like a proper Premier League player for a bit. Jack Grealish has broken out as a player to keep an eye on in the future as well, and both he and his Belgian striker will be looking to impress at Wembley ahead of potential summer transfers.
Let's take a look at the starting lineups for each team:
Arsenal: Szczesny, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Ramsey, Ozil, Alexis, Walcott
There are a few noteworthy absences here, with Ospina and Olivier Giroud not included amongst the starters. Wojciech Szczesny and Theo Walcott will bookend the usual suspects in the Gunners lineup. Walcott's impressive performance on the final day of the Premier League season has obviously earned him another start up top, though it will be interesting to see if Villa's game plan will be to snuff out pace and counter-attacking, or more focused on stopping the hold up play that would have been the plan had Giroud been the starter.
Aston VIlla: Given, Hutton, Vlaar, Okore, Richardson, Westwood, Delph (c), Cleverley, Grealish, N'Zogbia, Benteke
Not too many surprises for Villa, with a more defensive setup in midfield keeping Gabriel Agbonlahor on the bench in favor of a third central midfielder. Shay Given is also restored between the posts after both he and Brad Guzan were dropped for Villa's last match. The set up looks like Villa will be playing to keep the score as low as possible and potentially playing on the break, though Agbonlahor's pace certainly would have come in handy there.
Who are you rooting for to claim the FA Cup? Do you think Sherwood can continue his excellent restoration of Aston Villa, or will Arsene Wenger's Gunners prove too much to handle? Let's chat!