Nerves getting to you yet? Mine are… Sweet Lord have mercy, my innards are currently doing a fandango of terror and each waking moments sees me certain I’ll have to dash to the closest lavatory like an Olympic sprinter.
There’s something glorious about the unknown on Cup Final Day. Aston Villa, on paper at the very least, are a team that wouldn’t cause any of us to fear were today a regular Premiership fixture. However, when facing the unpredictability of Cup football, when facing the situation in which anyone can emerge a hero; I look upon the potential team sheet of our opponents with nothing but dread.
“Cleverley could have a good day. Benteke is dangerous if he is in the mood. We’ll need to make sure our midfield looks after Delph. Grealish might look like he was dropped from the cast of Bugsy Malone, but he has a certain magic in his toes”
Those are sentiments sure to not cross my mind in a league fixture. In said circumstances I’d be calm and fully expecting a comfortable victory. Today is anything but.
As I’m sure you are all fully aware, when you add Arsenal’s penchant for making things difficult to the rampaging uncertainty of a major final, the recipe for digestive troubles and pure fear is a potent one. Writing a preview or any conglomeration of my thoughts is very difficult as I’m inclined to change my mind rapidly, wildly veering from one extreme to another. If we lined-up today against an octogenarian select 11 depleted by serious injury and having travelled across Europe 3 times I’d still worry that somehow, some way we’d contrive to balls it all up.
Yet, my natural pessimism does subside occasionally, fleetingly. Our team, should they perform under the pressure and stamp their authority early on, has more than enough in terms of pure footballing ability. We are unquestionably the better team, the pertinent question is whether we perform on the day. If we do, we will win. If not, then the afternoon’s events will unravel in the most uncomfortable of ways. We’re the favourites to win. most pundits expect us to win and the vast majority of betting sites all favour an Arsenal triumph.
Villa have little or nothing to lose as the underdog and with that comes a freedom of expression. Tim Sherwood has stated he’ll send his troops out to attack Arsenal and take us on head to head. Whilst I doubt he’d be that cavalier about proceedings, I do hope that statement is true. If Villa adopt that mentality, I see us having plenty of space to work with and quality will tell over the course of 90 (or 120) minutes.
That said, I expect Sherwood’s team to look to pressure and stifle first and foremost. They don’t have the personnel to engage in a toe-to-toe battle of attacking football so I’d be very surprised if they didn’t play to their own strengths.
There’s a great deal of debate surrounding how we line-up. Having bagged and impressive hat-trick against West Brom, Theo is being talked up to nick Giroud’s starting spot and play through the middle. Whilst Walcott’s pace will certainly have it’s advantages on a pitch the size of Wembley, his hold-up play isn’t a patch on Giroud’s and that I think will be important today.
People talk of form heading into the game. The FA Cup Final is a match in which form counts for very little. Giroud may have gone off the boil slightly in recent weeks, but he is still our main threat up front and a fresh Walcott against tiring legs should we be loosing is a fantastic option to have.
I think the starting XI will be very similar to what we’ve seen in the league, the only difference being Szczesny taking his place in goal – something I’m happy to see happen as I still maintain he is a better keeper than Ospina. Ramsey should start from the right and whilst that does severely effect our width, it does give us a more combative edge when out of possession and we’l be put under pressure by Villa. All in all, I think messing with the formula would be a touch risky when it has shown to have worked on numerous occasions.
And so the countdown begins. Like you all, I’ll be pacing around my home and checking the Internet incessantly for any fragment of news I can get my hands on. I hope you all enjoy the game wherever you’re watching.
That’s all from me. The comments section awaits you below. Tell me all of your thoughts and fears ahead of today’s spectacle. I’ll be back with more tomorrow morning and, hopefully, it will be a post littered with expressions of joy and ecstasy.
Until that time, and as always; thanks for reading, you beautiful bastards.