FA Cup final special

30/05/2015 | By | Reply More

I was going to write up the FA Cup final and then this arrived. An excellent write up brought to your by our friends over at Football Form Labs. Check out their site and the powerful software that sits behind these comments.

FA Cup Final: Arsenal v Aston Villa (Sat, 17:30)

Tim Sherwood will be up against the club that he supported as a boy in Saturday’s FA Cup final at Wembley as his Villa side take on last year’s winners Arsenal, fresh from yet another top-four finish under Arsene Wenger. Despite looking relatively comfortable going into the final stages of the season, Villa ended up 17th and just three points away from relegation as they lost 6-1 at Southampton and 1-0 at home to Burnley in their final two games of the season. Arsenal similarly struggled in their final league fixtures, winning just one of their last four games and Mourinho made a valid point at Chelsea’s end of season awards when he reminded Arsenal fans that the season is between August and May, not just January and April, and Wenger will be hoping that another FA Cup win will appease Arsenal fans who have seen their side go another season without seriously contending for the Premier League title.

Together with Manchester United, Arsenal are the most successful club in the history of the FA Cup having picked up the trophy on 11 occasions and with Wenger at the helm for five of those triumphs, should his side triumph this weekend then not only will Arsenal have won the competition the most times, the Frenchman will be the competition’s most successful manager along with former Villa manager George Ramsay. Arsenal were available to back at 10.0 to retain their title at the start of the season, while there are no doubt some ardent Villa fans who snapped up the 51.0 for them to go one better than their 2000 final appearance and repeat their 1957 success. Two of Arsenal’s FA Cup triumphs are detailed below, together with the other eight FA Cup finals since 2004/05 and the Football Form Labs grading of each of the finalists over this period. Our grading system, loosely based on ELO, aided us in recommending Juventus at 29.0 Each Way to win this season’s Champions League as well as backing Argentina and Germany to be the World Cup finalists at 15.0.

Last 10 FA Cup Finals

Season Venue Team Versus FT Score AET score Pens Grade Opp Grade Grade diff
2014/15 Wembley Arsenal Aston Villa       163.08 129.82 33.26
2013/14 Wembley Arsenal Hull City 2-2 3-2 162.92 123.52 39.39
2012/13 Wembley Man City Wigan 0-1 162.49 133.63 28.87
2011/12 Wembley Chelsea Liverpool 2-1 171.32 150.87 20.46
2010/11 Wembley Man City Stoke 1-0 156.07 143.34 12.73
2009/10 Wembley Chelsea Portsmouth 1-0 174.59 134.70 39.89
2008/09 Wembley Chelsea Everton 2-1 176.39 156.30 20.08
2007/08 Wembley Portsmouth Cardiff 1-0 144.93 115.35 29.58
2006/07 Wembley Chelsea Man Utd 0-0 1-0 174.68 170.64 4.03
2005/06 Cardiff Liverpool West Ham 3-3 3-3 3-1 165.73 136.02 29.71
2004/05 Cardiff Arsenal Man Utd 0-0 0-0 5-4 169.34 165.89 3.45

What immediately stands out from this table is that Wigan were the only lower graded side to have been victorious since 2004/05, with manager Roberto Mancini’s fate as Manchester City manager sealed following the shock defeat. Indeed, according to our grading system, an Aston Villa win would be even more of a surprise than that of Wigan’s in 2013 and the only other finals with a greater disparity between the two finalists in the last 10 years were Chelsea v Portsmouth and Arsenal’s own tie against Hull last season, which they still needed extra-time for. Worryingly for Villa fans, no side with a grading below 130 has lifted the FA Cup since 1992/93. While Arsenal’s recent trophy drought has been well documented Villa’s last major honour was the 1996 League Cup. Arsenal, on the other hand, have won the trophy in their last four FA Cup finals, including back-to-back wins in 2002 and 2003, and with Chelsea also winning the famous trophy in 2009 and 2010, retaining the FA Cup doesn’t appear to pose the same problem that winning consecutive Champions Leagues seems to.

Having looked at historical FA Cup finals, next we turn our attention to the path the finalists took to the showpiece event at Wembley on Saturday evening.

Arsenal Route to the Final

Team Versus H/A/N Round FT res FT Score H/T res H/T Score AET score
Arsenal Reading N SF D 1-1 W 1-0 2-1
Arsenal Manchester United A Round 6 W 2-1 D 1-1
Arsenal Middlesbrough H Round 5 W 2-0 W 2-0
Arsenal Brighton A Round 4 W 3-2 W 2-0
Arsenal Hull City H Round 3 W 2-0 W 1-0

After sailing through straight forward home ties against Hull and Middlesbrough and seeing off a late charge at Brighton, Arsenal faced undoubtedly the stiffest test of their FA Cup campaign against Manchester United. Much maligned for their inability to win big games in recent times, Arsenal went into that fixture having lost nine of their last 10 matches at Old Trafford, but were seemingly buoyed by their win at Manchester City a couple of months earlier as they put in a similarly impressive away performance to win 2-1.

The fact that they needed extra-time against Reading in the semi-final, however, is particularly revealing as they also required the extra 30 minutes in last year’s final against Hull after the semi-final against Wigan went all the way to penalties and their penultimate FA Cup win over Manchester United in 2005 also came via the penalty spot. Arsenal had a very strong second half of the season, winning 10 of their last 14 matches, with a surprise home defeat to Swansea the only loss over that period. Wenger’s side have no new injury concerns going into this game, with Danny Welbeck still unavailable, but they could be boosted by the returns to fitness of Arteta, Debuchy, and in particular the exciting Oxlade-Chamberlain. Theo Walcott’s first-half hat-trick on the final day of the season could also provide Wenger with a selection problem of the good sort as he must now decide whether it is Walcott or Giroud who starts up front on Saturday.   

Aston Villa Route to the Final

Team Versus H/A/N Round FT res FT Score H/T res H/T Score
Aston Villa Liverpool N SF W 2-1 D 1-1
Aston Villa West Brom H Round 6 W 2-0 D 0-0
Aston Villa Leicester H Round 5 W 2-1 D 0-0
Aston Villa Bournemouth H Round 4 W 2-1 D 0-0
Aston Villa Blackpool H Round 3 W 1-0 D 0-0

Villa were handed a kind draw in that their first four FA Cup ties this season were all at home and against either lower league or struggling Premier League sides and they won all of these before overcoming Liverpool in their semi-final at Wembley. However, it is important to note that Liverpool had suffered a heavy 4-1 defeat at the Emirates and a home loss to arch rivals Manchester United in two of their three league fixtures going into the semi-final and following the defeat at Wembley they won only one of their last six league matches, at home to relegated QPR, while losing three times, highlighting how poor they’ve been this season. Villa’s league form also slipped in the final two games as their Premier League looked assured and their attentions turned to this fixture with Arsenal. They look to be up against it though as they’ve lost seven of their last nine matches against the Gunners, including both league fixtures this season by an aggregate of 8-0. Ciaran Clark is again ruled out for Tim Sherwood’s side and Kieran Richardson missed last Saturday’s game, although Okore is expected to be passed fit.

Whilst six of the last 10 FA Cup finals had Under 1.5 goals, Tim Sherwood has promised in various press conferences to attack Arsenal and should he stick to his word we could be in for a cracking match. Since taking over in February, eight of Villa’s 13 league games under Sherwood had Over 2.5 goals and if we conflate these figures with his time at Tottenham last season then of the 35 games that he’s managed in the Premier League, 21 had Over 2.5 goals (60%), most definitely making him an ‘overs’ manager. His Villa side had little regard for defence when they lost 6-1 at Southampton and Arsenal’s attacking players looked in fantastic form as they put four past West Brom in the opening 40 minutes of their fixture on the final day of the season. 

For this reason, together with the fact that 19 of Villa’s last 21 FA Cup matches had Over 2.5 goals, we think this game will be more similar to last year’s final than other tight Wembley affairs 
and like the look of Over 2.5 goals at 1.85 and even Over 3.5 at 3.25. The record of higher graded sides in FA Cup finals has been discussed previously but there is little juice in Arsenal’s price of 1.3 to lift the trophy or even 1.57 to win the game in 90 minutes. Instead, dutching Arsenal to win by a one goal margin at 3.6 or by two goals at 4.5 gives a combined 2.0 odds and that looks far better value. Just one of the last 20 finals has been won by more than two goals and that was Man Utd’s 2004 success against Millwall when our gradings placed then a record 54 points higher. 

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I left a good job in the consumer technology industry to go a trade on Betfair for a living way back in June 2000. I've been here ever since pushing very boundaries of what's possible on betting exchanges and loved every minute of it.

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