Arsenal vs Aston Villa, Emirates Stadium, Premier League
Kickoff – 15:00 GMT (20:30 IST), 24th March 2012
Common sense has finally prevailed, and normal service resumes as Arsenal face Aston Villa, finally a league game on a Saturday, after a couple of midweek ties.
The Gunners are high in spirits after securing a 6th win on the bounce, a tricky one against Everton. It has been a big turnaround over the last few weeks after all the doom and gloom following the trouncing in Milan and Sunderland.
Arsenal’s defence has been much criticised this season, for making schoolboy errors, and shipping away too many goals. However, as of late, Arsene Wenger has all 4 available players at their positions fit and available for selection. This means, that, of course there won’t be a player playing out of position and making a complete hash of it.
The defence of Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs has been mean and have won 7 of the 8 games they have all started together, drawing the other one. It is a sign of good things to come. And, what’s more, they can score goals as well, with Vermaelen netting winners against Newcastle and Everton, Sagna’s header against Sp*rs and Koscielny effort against Milan.
Looking down the barrel at one point of time, 13 points behind Sp*rs, Arsenal gave completely turned the tables, and are now a point ahead. Results have gone our way, with Chelsea’s poor form, coupled with their managerial merry-go-round, saw them lose a 5 point lead, to a 6 point deficit.
Aston Villa, on the other hand, have had a topsy turvy season. Too many draws means, they lie in 15th position, almost clear of relegation, but still a largely frustrating league campaign. Injury to their top striker Darren Bent hasn’t helped in the least.
Villa fans have had enough of manager Alex McLeish, and of course feel that their club has taken a backward step. Gabriel Agbonlahor’s recent comments that the fans havent helped the team in their games, has only added fuel to the fire.
Last time these two clubs met in the leagye, was in December and Arsenal escaped with a 2-1 win, thanks to a late Yossi Benayoun goal. While, in the cup, on 29th January, Arsenal overturned a 2-0 deficit at half-time to emerge 3-2 winners. Last season, though, Aston Villa emerged from Emirates with all 3 points. So, nothing comes easy against Aston Villa.
Team news. Arsenal have no fresh injury worries ahead of the game. It will be interesting to see, if Arsene Wenger decides to go with the same formation as he did against Everton, where he played 4 central midfielders in Arteta, Song, Rosicky, Ramsey, while deploying only one winger in Theo Walcott, or he opts for an adventurous midfield, with Chamberlain or Gervinho starting.
Aston Villa have a few injury concerns though. Charles N’Zogbia is a doubt with a knee injury, while the usual players out are Darren Bent, Richard Dunne and Fabian Delph.
One thing we can expect is a tight game from Villa. They will surely come to the Emirates with a plan to stifle Arsenal’s attack, and that is why I think the selection of Chamberlain is vital. He can provide the thrust against an inconsistent Villa backine. Alan Hutton, of course got sent off in December, and will be hugely frustrated if he comes up against the Ox. The injury to N’Zogbia means, Gary Gardner comes in to partner Chris Herd in defensive midfield, and this is a battle where Rosicky and Arteta will have to win. Elsewhere, I expect Theo Walcott to cause Steven Warnock a lot of problems. However, Arsenal’s defence will have to be at their best again. Ireland, Agbonlahor, Albrighton and Petrov can be a handful, like they displayed against Chelsea, when they beat the Blues 3-1 at Stamford Bridge. Speaking of which, Arsenal could have a gap of 4 points over Sp*rs, should Chelsea beat them, and of course we beat Aston Villa.
Enjoy the game.
Jai Arsenal 🙂