The FA Cup Final will bring the curtain down on another thrilling domestic season in English football this weekend, with Arsenal looking to engrave their name on the famous trophy for the second year running. Aston Villa, who struggled through a difficult Premier League campaign before their late revival under manager Tim Sherwood, stand in the way of a 12th FA Cup final victory for the Gunners.
Given the comparative league positions of the two teams and Arsenal's excellent recent FA Cup record, it's unsurprising that Arsene Wenger's side are strong favourites to lift the trophy at 3/10 with Bet365 Sports at time of writing.
Villa to win is available at 11/4, which may seem generous, given their impressive semi-final victory over Liverpool. However, the West Midlands side's league form dipped once again after their safety from relegation was assured (a 6-1 defeat at Southampton was particularly damaging), and it remains to be seen whether Sherwood's combative managerial style can deliver long-term improvement at the underachieving club.
The FA Cup Final goalscorer markets may provide more value, with Christian Benteke an appealing 7/1 at William Hill Sports to score first at Wembley. The Belgian striker played a key role in Villa's resurgence after Sherwood was appointed in February, scoring 12 goals in the last 12 games of the season. Elsewhere, in the first goalscorer market, William Hill Sports offers 11/2 on Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey – who provided the extra-time winner against Hull City in last year's FA Cup final – and 7/1 on Theo Walcott. The England star netted a hat-trick against West Bromwich Albion on the final day of the Premier League season, but is not guaranteed a place in Wenger's starting line-up for the final.
Alexis Sanchez, who already has three goals for Arsenal in the FA Cup this season, is 21/20 to score at any time in the final at William Hill Sports. In the same market, Benteke is priced at 2/1 and Villa's Fabian Delph, who scored a superb winner against Liverpool in the semi-final, can be backed at 5/1.
When it comes to predicting the score, keen FA Cup historians will note that five of the last eight finals have finished with a 1-0 scoreline. At Coral Sports, that outcome is priced at 11/2 in Arsenal's favour and at 18/1 for Aston Villa. Under 1.5 goals in total is also available at 3/1, but those who expect the final to follow a similar pattern to last year's match – Arsenal were 2-0 down with eight minutes played and came back to win 3-2 after extra time – can get 11/2 on over 4.5 goals.
On their route to the final, Villa won three of their five games 2-1 (against Bournemouth, Leicester City and Liverpool). Sherwood's side are 22/1 with Coral Sports to record that result again on Saturday. Arsenal won 2-1 in two previous rounds to reach the final (in their quarter-final against Manchester United and against Reading after extra time in the semi-final), and 15/2 is the price at Coral Sports for another 2-1 scoreline in favour of the Gunners.
For punters who expect Arsenal to clinch the FA cup in extra time once more this weekend, William Hill Sports has odds of 8/1 (with Villa 22/1 to do the same). Both sides are 12/1 to win on penalties – an intriguing prospect, given that the winner has not been decided from the spot since the classic final of 2006, when a pulsating encounter between Liverpool and West Ham United finished 3-3 and Rafa Benitez's side clinched it on penalties. In 2005, Arsenal won a penalty shootout against Manchester United to lift the trophy after the final finished goalless.
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