FA Cup: Arsenal, Aston Villa's road to the final

Holders Arsenal tackle Aston Villa in the FA Cup final at Wembley on Saturday in the showpiece finale to the 2014-15 English football season. Arsenal, 3-2 victors against Hull City in last season's final, are bidding to win the trophy for a record 12th time, while Villa claimed the last of their seven FA Cups in 1957.

Arsenal face Aston Villa in Saturday's FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium, when Arsene Wenger's men will attempt to defend the trophy they won by defeating Hull City last year. Here, we run the rule over the players bidding to keep the famous trophy at the Emirates Stadium.

Also Read: FA Cup: Five classic FA Cup finals and goals


Goalkeepers: 1. Wojciech Szczesny (POL) Szczesny was dropped following a 2-0 loss at Southampton on New Year's Day amid reports he had been caught smoking in the showers after the match, but the Pole has played in the last four rounds of the FA Cup.

13. David Ospina (COL) Colombia international Ospina, signed from Nice last year, has been Arsenal's first-choice goalkeeper in the league since Szczesny was dropped, but may have to make do with a place on the bench on Saturday.

FA Cup: Arsenal, Aston Villa's road to the finalPic/AFP

Defenders: 4. Per Mertesacker (GER) Germany international Mertesacker has overcome an uncertain start to his Arsenal career to become the patron of Arsene Wenger's squad. He made more Premier League starts this season (35) than any of his team-mates.

6. Laurent Koscielny (FRA) A defender very much in the Wenger mould, France centre-back Koscielny is a classy and elegant operator who exudes confidence on the ball and possesses a sharp turn of pace.

18. Nacho Monreal (ESP) Spaniard Monreal watched last season's final from the bench, but will hope to start against Villa after a sustained run in the team during the final weeks of the campaign.

28. Kieran Gibbs (ENG) Injuries have hampered Gibbs's progress at Arsenal and this season has been no different, but having recently returned to fitness, he is vying with Monreal for a place on the left flank of the defence.

39. Hector Bellerin (ESP) Galloping Spanish right-back Bellerin, 20, has enjoyed a breakthrough campaign, forcing close-season signing Calum Chambers out of the team and ensuring that the injured Mathieu Debuchy has not been missed.

Midfielders: 8. Mikel Arteta (ESP) Club captain Arteta, 33, has not played since late November due to calf and ankle problems, but Wenger says the Spanish midfield organiser has a chance of returning to the squad for the final.

10. Jack Wilshere (ENG) After over five months out with an ankle problem, perennial injury victim Wilshere appeared in Arsenal's last five league games and scored a sublime half-volley against West Bromwich Albion on the season's final day.

11. Mesut Ozil (GER) Ozil's club-record £42.5 million ($65.4 million, 60 million euros) move from Real Madrid in September 2014 sparked huge excitement, but Wenger has since had to speak out regularly in defence of the gifted Germany playmaker, who has a habit of drifting in and out of games.

15. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (ENG) Nicknamed 'The Ox' due to his pace and physicality, Oxlade-Chamberlain, like Wilshere, has struggled with injuries, but he remains greatly admired by both Wenger and England manager Roy Hodgson.

16. Aaron Ramsey (WAL) Wales midfielder Ramsey capped a stunning campaign by scoring an extra-time winner against Hull in the final 12 months ago. Has complained about being played out of position on the right of midfield in recent weeks. 

19. Santi Cazorla (ESP) One of the few genuinely two-footed players in the game, Cazorla has excelled this season after being withdrawn into a more conservative midfield holding role.

34. Francis Coquelin (FRA) French anchorman Coquelin was loaned out to second-tier Charlton Athletic in November, but he has been a revelation since returning in December, his physicality and positional awareness offering a vital counterpoint to the flair all around him.

Forwards: 14. Theo Walcott (ENG) After nine months on the sidelines with a knee problem, Walcott has endured a frustrating season, but he may have played his way into the starting XI with a first-half hat-trick against West Brom on Sunday.

17. Alexis Sanchez (CHI) Signed from Barcelona for £35 million last year, Sanchez has enjoyed a superb debut season, bowling fans over with his tenacity and work-rate and plundering 24 goals in all competitions. Nominated for the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) Player of the Year award.

12. Olivier Giroud (FRA) Slow but blessed with a wonderfully dexterous left foot, France international Giroud polarises opinions, with some heralding his excellent link-up play while others decrying his occasional profligacy.

Manager: Arsene Wenger (FRA) Wenger has rebuilt the club in his own image since arriving from Japanese side Nagoya Grampus Eight in 1996 and the end of Arsenal's nine-year trophy drought last year lifted a weight from his shoulders. Long criticised for a perceived lack of backbone, Arsenal have demonstrated new-found pragmatism in games against their main rivals and have qualified for the Champions League for the 18th successive season. Wenger is bidding to become only the second manager, after Villa great George Ramsay, to win six FA Cups, but a defeat on Saturday would see many of the old doubts return to the surface.

Aston Villa

Tim Sherwood's men are looking to upset the odds after eliminating Liverpool in the semi-finals. Here, we look at the players bidding to take the cup to Villa Park for the first time in almost 70 years.

Aston Villa's Dutch defender Ron Vlaar (C) celebrates after winning the FA Cup semi-final between Aston Villa and Liverpool at Wembley stadium in London on April 19, 2015. Pic/AFPAston Villa's Dutch defender Ron Vlaar (C) celebrates after winning the FA Cup semi-final between Aston Villa and Liverpool at Wembley stadium in London on April 19, 2015. Pic/AFP

Goalkeepers: 1. Brad Guzan (USA) Should cup goalkeeper Shay Given fail to recover from injury, 30-year-old Guzan will be ready to step in, having been number-one choice during the club's rocky Premier League campaign.

31. Shay Given (IRE) The 39-year-old has been a mainstay of Villa's cup run, playing in every round, but faces a battle to be fit for Wembley after injuring his groin in training.

Defenders: 2. Nathan Baker (ENG) The young Englishman looked certain to miss the final after picking up a knee injury in Villa's shock 2-1 semi-final win against Liverpool, but has fought back to fitness and is expected to start.

4. Ron Vlaar (NED) A cult hero among the Villa fans, 'Roncrete' shone during the Netherlands' run to the World Cup semi-finals last year, but Saturday could be the 30-year-old's last game for the club, with his contract running out in the close season.

6. Jores Okore (DEN) The centre-back is suffering from a long-term knee problem and has been rested after a dip in form in order to be in contention for the final.

7. Leandro Bacuna (NED) The midfielder-turned-right-back has provided five assists in his last 10 games, but is not guaranteed a final spot due to question marks over his defensive qualities.

21. Alan Hutton (SCO) The combative Scotsman is vying with Bacuna for the full-back role, and could get the nod if manager Tim Sherwood opts for a stronger defensive line-up.

Midfielders: 8. Tom Cleverly (ENG) Made a scapegoat for Manchester United's troubles under David Moyes last season, the 25-year-old England international has enjoyed a new lease of life since his loan move to Villa Park, scoring two vital goals this month to help the club secure Premier League survival.

12. Joe Cole (ENG) The former Chelsea and Liverpool midfielder, 33, joined last year after a second spell at his formative club West Ham United, but he has barely featured this season.

15. Ashley Westwood (ENG) The 25-year-old midfielder's Villa future looked in doubt when Sherwood took over in February, but he has impressed with a series of hard-working displays after deputising for the suspended Carlos Sanchez.

16. Fabien Delph (ENG) The club's player of the season has established himself as an England regular and his smart finish proved to be the difference in last month's semi-final.

24. Carlos Sanchez (COL) Signed last year for a fee believed to be over £4.5 million ($6.9 million, 6.4 million euros), the Colombian international has had a difficult first season and is now struggling to regain his place from Westwood.

28. Charles N'Zogbia (FRA) The rapid winger started Villa's last game of the league season, a 1-0 defeat at home to Burnley, at left-back, with first-choice Aly Cissokho ruled out through injury, but is much more at home running at defenders in the final third.

40. Jack Grealish (IRE) The hottest young property in Villa's ranks dazzled at Wembley during the semi-final and the 19-year-old attacking midfielder is currently the centre of a tug-of-war between England and the Republic of Ireland over his international future.

Forwards: 9. Scott Sinclair (ENG) The wide forward made an instant impact after joining on loan from Manchester City in January and it was announced on May 19 that he had signed a four-year deal to stay at Villa Park.

10. Andreas Weimann (AUT) The lively Austrian forward has scored four times this season, including the winner against Bournemouth in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

11. Gabriel Agbonlahor (ENG) A product of the club's youth academy, the strong, speedy striker made his Villa debut in 2006 and has since made over 300 appearances, scoring 73 times.

20. Christian Benteke (BEL) The main man up front for Villa, the powerful Belgian striker will pose a threat of genuine international calibre to Arsenal's defence, having scored almost one goal every other game since joining the club in 2012.

Manager: Tim Sherwood (ENG) Sherwood has won over Villa's fans since succeeding the sacked Paul Lambert, helping the club secure Premier League survival and orchestrating memorable cup wins over local rivals West Bromwich Albion and Liverpool. As a player, Sherwood captained Blackburn Rovers to Premier League glory in 1995 before moving into coaching as an assistant to Harry Redknapp at Tottenham Hotspur. After taking over as Spurs manager in December 2013, he helped blood young talent such as Harry Kane and Ryan Mason, but was sacked this time last year after less than six months at the helm.

Factfiles of the teams


Name: Arsenal Football Club 

Founded: 1886 (as Dial Square)

Stadium: Emirates Stadium, London (capacity: 60,338)

Nickname: The Gunners

Colours: red shirts with white sleeves, white shorts, white socks

Chairman: John 'Chips' Keswick (ENG)

Chief executive: Ivan Gazidis (RSA)

Manager: Arsene Wenger (FRA)

Assistant manager: Steve Bould (ENG)

Captain: Mikel Arteta (ESP)

English First Division/Premier League (13): 1930-31, 1932-33, 1933-34, 1934-35, 1937-38, 1947-48, 1952-53, 1970-71, 1988-89, 1990-91, 1997-98, 2001-02, 2003-04

FA Cup (11): 1929-30, 1935-36, 1949-50, 1970-71, 1978-79, 1992-93, 1997-98, 2001-02, 2002-03, 2004-05, 2013-14 League Cup (2): 1986-87, 1992-93

FA Community Shield (13): 1930, 1931, 1933, 1934, 1938, 1948, 1953, 1991 (shared), 1998, 1999, 2002, 2004,

2014 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup (1): 1993-94

Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (1): 1969-70 

Most appearances: David O'Leary (IRL): 722

Most goals: Thierry Henry (FRA): 228

Record transfer fee paid: Mesut Ozil (GER), £42.5 million ($65.4 million, 60 million euros) to Real Madrid/ESP, September 2013

Record transfer fee received: Cesc Fabregas (ESP), £29.8 million ($45.9 million, 42.1 million euros) from Barcelona/ESP, August 2011


Aston Villa

Name: Aston Villa Football Club

Founded: 1874

Stadium: Villa Park, Birmingham (capacity: 42,682)

Nickname: Villa, The Villans

Colours: claret shirts with light blue sleeves, white shorts, light blue and claret striped socks

Chairman: Randy Lerner (USA)

Chief executive: Tom Fox (USA)

Manager: Tim Sherwood (ENG)

Assistant manager: Kevin MacDonald (SCO)

Captain: Fabian Delph (ENG)

English First Division/Premier League (7): 1893-94, 1895-96, 1896-97, 1898-99, 1899-1900, 1909-10, 1980-81

FA Cup (7): 1886-87, 1894-95, 1896-97, 1904-05, 1912-13, 1919-20, 1956-57

League Cup (5): 1960-61, 1974-75, 1976-77, 1993-94, 1995-96

A Community Shield (1): 1981

European Cup (1): 1981-82

UEFA Super Cup (1): 1982

Intertoto Cup (2): 2001, 2008

Most appearances: Charlie Aitken (SCO): 660

Most goals: Billy Walker (ENG): 244

Record transfer fee paid (as reported): Darren Bent (ENG), £18 million ($27.6 million, 25.3 million euros; rising to £24 million) to Sunderland/ENG, January 2011

Record transfer fee received (as reported): James Milner (ENG), £26 million ($39.8 million, 36.6 million euros)from Manchester City/ENG, August 2010

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