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AVFC v. Arsenal: Benteke the key in Saturday’s FA Cup Final

Aston Villa head to Wembley for the chance to win their first FA Cup in 58 years. They’ll have to be on top of their game to get it done.

Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

This game terrifies me.

I mean, it well should. It’s probably Aston Villa’s biggest game in my lifetime, and it comes against a team that’s quite honestly a much better opponent.

On the day, Arsenal should win this game. If they play at their best, I don’t think there’s a scenario in which Fabian Delph hosts the FA Cup. That’s the way it is.

Sure, to a certain extent, Tim Sherwood’s men can force Arsenal into doing things they don’t want to, but it’ll take one hell of a spirited effort to keep the Gunners from controlling the match tomorrow at Wembley.

What terrifies me the most though? Sherwood’s insistence on playing a high back line, one that got carved open at the St. Mary’s two weeks ago.

Southampton put six past Shay Given on that ultimately happy day on the South Coast, and a lot has to do with the way the Villa defenders set up.

And unfortunately for Claret and Blue supporters, we’ve already seen what happens when this team tries to play a high line against Arsenal; 3-0 and 5-0 defeats during the Premier League campaign.

That’s why it’s going to be so important that the "front six" (plus Leandro Bacuna, most likely) are at the top of their game.

When a chance comes to Delph or Tom Cleverley, they’ve gotta take it. If Charles N’Zogbia has a good chance brewing, he can’t needlessly give away possession here. Ashley Westwood has to be strong in possession; otherwise, Villa will likely be overran on the pitch.

It’s the biggest stage, and Villa might have to be flawless tomorrow.

But, of course, the biggest cog in the Claret and Blues’ effort is the most-talked about striker in England, Christian Benteke.

We’ve read about Liverpool’s interest and release clauses this week, but haven’t talked enough about just how good of a player he is. If not for him, Villa don’t get here, and if not for him, we’re going into this final as a Championship side.

He is exactly the type of player that can change a game, perhaps unlike anyone else on the pitch. With just one touch, he can turn the game around, and he’s going to have to be on top of his game for Villa to have any chance at this one.

The defence? They need to be competent and, quite frankly, a little lucky tomorrow. They’ll need to show improvement from past games, and hopefully the return of Kieran Richardson helps calm the unit down a little bit.

(I can’t believe I just typed that sentence.)

But at the end of the day, here we are.

It’s a chance to win a major honour for the first time in 19 years and to win the FA Cup for the first time in 58 years.

And Tim Sherwood’s going to try and do that by going at Arsenal, by attacking them, by matching them stride-for-stride.

The tactics? They absolutely terrify me.

But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If Aston Villa win this thing tomorrow, it’s going to be because they went toe-to-toe with one of the three best sides in England. It’ll be a deserved end to one hell of an odd journey, a chance to celebrate for the first time in a while.

And you know what? I’m okay with that.

We might lose 4-0. It’s pretty plausible.

Or maybe we’ll win.

Let’s plan on that one. Up the Villa!


Throughout the FA Cup final week, we're raising money for the Villa Rockets Powerchair Football club. With your help we can reach £5,000 and get them a new powerchair! Read about the club and our effort here, or simply click here to donate and help us reach our goal! And remember, if you donate any amount, you can enter to win a free Fabian Delph t-shirt from The Art of Football!