History on the agenda as Arsenal aim to retain FA Cup
Holders Arsenal face Aston Villa in the FA Cup final on Saturday with a pair of historic landmarks driving the Gunners in their bid to retain the famous old trophy.
A victory over Villa at Wembley would make Arsenal chief Arsene Wenger the first post-war manager to win the FA Cup six times, taking him ahead of Alex Ferguson and level with George Ramsay — the only boss to have won six FA Cups, with his last coming in charge of Villa in 1920.
There would also be a significant slice of history for Wenger’s club if they see off Villa as it would make them the most successful teamin the history of the competition with 12 Cup-winning campaigns.
Arsenal will go into the match as favourites after routing Villa 3-0 and 5-0 in their two Premier League encounters and finishing 14 places above them this season.
But those defeats came before Tim Sherwood replaced Paul Lambert as manager in February and sparked a revival that pulled Villa clear of the relegation zone and into their first FA Cup final since 2000.
Key to Arsenal’s hopes of becoming the first team to retain the FA Cup since Chelsea in 2010 is the form of Wales midfielder Aaron Ramsey, who scored the extra-time winner in last year’s final against Hull.
Ramsey’s lung-bursting runs, eye for a defence-splitting pass and clinical finishing combine to make him such a dynamic force that Spanish champions Barcelona are reportedly considering a bid to buy him.
But Ramsey refuses to be distracted by transfer talk, saying: “That’s just something that’s been written in the papers. I’m focused on Arsenal and winning the FA Cup.
“If we can win the Cup that will be two trophies in two years so hopefully we can just keep that run of winning things going.
“Back-to-back finals are not an easy thing to achieve. In the second half of the season we have shown the form that we need throughout the season to win this league.
“If we can just show that consistency throughout the season then we’ll be challenging for the Premier League, and that’s what we’ll be looking to do next year.”
Buoyed by Sherwood’s bubbly personality and their late-season improvement, Villa believe they can end their 58-year wait to win the FA Cup if they produce the kind of effervescent display that vanquished Liverpool in the semi-finals.
If they do take the trophy back to Villa Park, it is a safe bet 19-year-old midfielder Jack Grealish will have played a starring role.
Grealish has burst onto the scene in the last few weeks with some vibrant displays in midfield and Sherwood expects another influential effort against Arsenal.
“He has coped with the pressure up until now, when he is asked to step up he has ticked the boxes,” Sherwood said.
“The bigger the stage the better he’s been and there isn’t any bigger stage than this one.
“He is great, he loves playing. I don’t think he gets nervous. He doesn’t look the type. He’s a terrific player and we’re happy he’s on our side.”