Arsène Wenger and Arsenal will go in search of history in Saturday’s FA Cup final against Aston Villa at Wembley. Victory for Arsenal would take them above Manchester United as the most successful club in the 144-year history of the world’s oldest domestic cup competition, taking them to 12 wins. It would also put Wenger in the record books, giving him a sixth FA Cup triumph, the most of any manager since World War II and level with George Ramsay on the all-time list.
It is a powerful incentive for Arsenal to repeat their success of last year, when they came from two goals down to beat Hull City in the final. But Wenger, who also won the trophy in 1998, 2002, 2003 and 2005, stressed that an FA Cup final has enough prestige in itself without the chance to set records.
“I get the same excitement,” he said in his pre-match press conference. “I get even more responsibilities because you know what it means for us, and I know that it’s not easy to get there. Once you’re there you want to win it.
“I like to beat records but honestly that’s not the most important thing on Saturday. The most important thing is that we come home all together and happy.”
Arsenal finished third in the Premier League and bounced back from a mini blip to beat West Brom 4-1 on the final day of the season last Sunday. The victory was inspired by a hat-trick by Theo Walcott, who, after a season of frustration since coming back from long-term injury, has put himself into contention to start ahead of Olivier Giroud. The French striker has gone eight appearances without a goal, but Wenger was keen to stress that the whole squad would play a part on Saturday.
“[Walcott] has shown that he is back in good form, but that is normal,” he said. “I said that before last week’s game, what is important is that we do not make too many individual cases before a cup final, it is the whole team who can win it.”
Aston Villa will go into the match as underdogs, particularly after a dip in form at the end of the season. Brought into save the Birmingham club from relegation in February, the former Tottenham boss achieved that aim with games to spare. But their Premier League campaign finished with a 6-1 defeat at Southampton and a 1-0 home loss to Burnley.
Still, Sherwood has already shown in his time in charge that he can get Villa to raise their game for the big occasion. In last month’s semifinal at Wembley, Villa upset Liverpool 2-1, with starring performances from midfielders Fabian Delph and Jack Grealish as well as striker Christian Benteke. And Sherwood has expressed confidence that his side can deliver the goods once again to give the seven-time winners their first trophy of any kind since lifting the League Cup in 1996.
“It's a one-off game,” he said, according to Aston Villa’s official website. “Form goes out of the window. Everyone has a chance to make a name for themselves. The club haven't won a trophy for a long time so it's an opportunity for everyone to write the history books again.
“I thoroughly believe we will get a performance like the one we put in against Liverpool. You have to believe that. Hopefully we can nullify Arsenal's threats and take the game to them. That's what we intend to do. On the big occasions they have produced the goods. They need to do it one more time.”
Sherwood’s main concern ahead of the final has been over the fitness of goalkeeper Shay Given. But the 39-year-old, who was in goal for Newcastle when they lost the 1998 FA Cup final to Arsenal, is back in training and likely to be selected ahead of Brad Guzan. Kieran Richardson is also back in contention, while Mathieu Debuchy and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have returned to fitness for Arsenal.
Kickoff time: 12:30 p.m. EDT
TV channel: FOX