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Benteke not the sole Villan in Arsenal v Aston Villa Mix N Match

| 27.05.2015

You might think that selecting a combined team of Arsenal and Aston Villa players ahead of the FA Cup final is a simple case of figuring out which Gunners starter gets dropped in favour of Christian Benteke.

However, the 5/2 outsiders to leave Wembley with the trophy and an open-bus journey to look forward to have contributed more than that to our chosen XI:

Combined Arsenal and Aston Villa FA Cup Final XI

For starters, we have opted for a winger-free formation that is far more to Tim Sherwood’s taste than Arsene Wenger’s as a tribute to the plethora of midfield talent that both squads contain, and that has in turn made room for Tom Cleverley.

The 25-year-old’s resurgence under the former Tottenham boss, which peaked with three goals in three games between the end of April and start of May, earned him a place in this side and allegedly on Wenger’s summer shopping list.

Anyway, let’s make Drake proud and start from the bottom of the graphic though, where the likes of Shay Given, Jores Okore and Ron Vlaar were unable to dissuade us from selecting an all-Arsenal back five.

After all, the north Londoners have conceded a mere four goals in their last seven Premier League matches – compared to Villa’s seven in two.

David Ospina, Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker and Hector Bellerin are easy picks, while we concluded that Nacho Monreal is more deserving than Kieran Gibbs following an opinion-altering 2014/15.

Francis Coquelin’s post-Christmas emergence lands him the deepest midfield berth. Wenger rather self-admiringly observed that if the Frenchman was signed for £40 million in the winter window, everyone would be applauding the purchase whereas, because he cost nothing, he remains unsung.

Fabian Delph and Jack Grealish would certainly command bench seats in this ensemble, but they haven’t been as impressive as either Santi Cazorla or Aaron Ramsey in 2015.

Cleverley completes the otherwise all-Arsenal midfield, posing the question: will he do so in reality when his Manchester United contract expires next month?

In our two-man attack, the form candidates of Christian Benteke and Theo Walcott get the nod over Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez, whose effectiveness has diminished recently with rubbish tallies of nought in eight and nought in four respectively.

By contrast, Benteke has struck 13 times since March alone to write his name on more summer wishlists than a fortnight in Miami, and Walcott scored a hat-trick against West Brom six days before the final to complicate Wenger’s teamsheet-populating plans.

That performance showed his capability up front, while Villa’s shortcomings at left back will make him a similarly enticing option out wide. The England international is 15/8 to net at any point in the 90 minutes.

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Alex Fortune