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  • Sep 22, 2014
  • Updated: 6:52pm
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PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 May, 2014, 9:11pm
UPDATED : Friday, 16 May, 2014, 9:11pm

Why Aaron Ramsey holds the key for Arsenal in FA Cup final

Midfielder's return should see Londoners beat Hull; bank on Atletico to win Spanish showdown

BIO

Nick has been SCMP’s tipster since soccer betting was launched in Hong Kong in 2003, having previously served as racing editor. He takes a statistical approach to soccer betting, focusing mainly on the English Premier League but also on the other major European leagues and the English lower divisions. Now based in England, he brings a wealth of experience as a punter and writer having also worked for the Sunday Times, Racing Post and Betfair during a 25-year career in sports betting journalism.
 

Aaron Ramsey may well hold the key in Saturday night's FA Cup final as Arsenal bid to forget another "what might have been" season in the English Premier League by capitalising on this golden opportunity to end their long wait for a trophy.

Arsenal have been at their best when Ramsey has played this season, winning 20 out of 27 in the Premier League and Champions League when he has started.

And it seemed more than coincidence that their challenge for both competitions was terminated during his absence for the first three months of 2014.

The extra dimension Ramsey brings to Arsenal's attack suggests they can beat Hull comfortably
Nick Pulford 

When Ramsey returned to the starting line-up in the Premier League last month, it just so happened to be against Hull, Saturday night's opponents, and immediately he was the standout player.

As well as scoring the first goal and setting up the second in a 3-0 win, he had the most touches of any player and the highest number of shots.

Ramsey also had the most shots in the reverse league fixture, a 2-0 win, and although he did not score he had another assist.

That all points to Ramsey making the difference in Saturday night's final, as he might have done in the Premier League if he had not been injured.

A leading role would be a fitting reward for his outstanding form this season and his attacking instincts make him well worth considering as first scorer.

The extra dimension Ramsey brings to Arsenal's attack suggests they can beat Hull comfortably and cover the handicap HAD, as they did in the two league meetings.

Hull would have had a little more hope if their January signings Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long were available but, with both strikers cup-tied, it is difficult to see where the goals will come from.

In the Premier League this season, Hull lost 14 out of 16 against top-eight sides and failed to score in 10 of those matches (and lost by at least two goals in 10 of them).

Arsenal, of course, suffered a shock defeat against Birmingham in the 2011 League Cup final, but they are the pick on the handicap HAD to end their trophy drought after nine long years.

Football fans face a dilemma over which match to watch live tonight, as the Spanish title decider between Barcelona and Atletico Madrid kicks off at the same time as the FA Cup final.

The reverse fixture ended 0-0, which means a Barcelona victory will give them the title owing to a superior head-to-head record.

Any other result will see Atletico finish top.

As well as the league match, the two sides have met in four other games this season and only one ended with a win (1-0 for Atletico at home in the Champions League quarter-final second leg).

All five meetings had under 2.5 goals.

Atletico are unbeaten in 11 games this season against the top seven, making them the best team in that category, but Barcelona have won all five at home to top-seven sides.

It is worth noting that Barca have conceded in all of those wins, however, and that Atletico's record in the 32 league games in which they have scored is 28 wins and four draws.

It is tricky to call, but the match will suit Atletico's counter-attacking style and they are the handicap pick.

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