LONDON (Sporting Alert) — Theo Walcott has been given the chance to prove himself as a striker as he starts up front for Arsenal in today’s FA Cup final against Aston Villa at Wembley Stadium.
Walcott, who spoke to his manager Arsene Wenger about trying him as a forward, has been rewarded with a place in the attack, after he netted a hat-trick in the final English Premier League fixture for the Gunners last Sunday.
The England international, who has been linked with a move away from the London outfits, will be well supported by the on form Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil.
Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey are also set to offer useful support as Arsenal seek back-to-back FA Cup titles.
Wenger has also decided to recall goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny for the final, with regular cup starter David Ospina on the bench.
Midfielder Jack Wilshere remains on the bench, along with Olivier Giroud, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kieran Gibbs and Gabriel Paulista.
For Aston Villa, in the meantime, manager Tim Sherwood named fit-again goalkeeper Shay Given and full-back Kieran Richardson in his starting team.
Charles N’Zogbia gets the nod over veteran Gabby Agbonlahor, while teenage midfielder Jack Grealish also starts.
“It’s about winning this trophy and we believe we can do it,” Aston Villa manager Tim Sherwood told BBC One.
“We were underdogs against Liverpool and played very well. I expect them to do that again. We have a plan, we know Arsenal have lots of threats but we have to impose ourselves on them.”
Forward Christian Benteke, who has been linked with a big-money move away from Villa Park this summer, leads the attack.
Is this the final Aston Villa outing for the goalscoring Belgian?
We’d have to wait and see.
On loan Manchester United midfielder Tom Cleverley will also starts for Aston Villa, and the England man is hoping for a winning result as he looks to decide on his future.
“This is the biggest game of my career, I need to use all of my Wembley experience and hopefully we will get a good result,” Cleverley said on BBC.
“We have done well to stay in the league and played well since the new manager came in and hopefully we can round it off with a great day at Wembley.”
Arsenal XI: Szczesny, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Ramsey, Ozil, Alexis, Walcott. Subs. Ospina, Gibbs, Gabriel, Flamini, Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Giroud.
Aston Villa XI: Given, Hutton, Vlaar, Okore, Richardson, Westwood, Delph (c), Cleverley, Grealish, N’Zogbia, Benteke. Subs. Guzan, Bacuna, Sinclair, Agbonlahor, Cole, Sanchez, Baker.