It’s back to the Premier League once again for Arsenal as they travel to Villa Park to take on Aston Villa. This is the first of four matches which could well decide the whether Arsenal remains in the hunt for the title or not. The importance of this sequence of fixtures have been said many times not only on my blog but many others as well, so there is no need to keep repeating it. The players should be well aware of this.
Villa were neck and neck with us prior to the first fixture at the Grove just a month back but has since dropped to 7th place. Although they still have a game in hand over us, they are already 12 points behind us and unless Arsenal suffers a major collapse in the last four months, it will be hard to see them overtaking us in the league. Villa are still involved in both domestic cup competitions and the fixture congestion may well prove to be their undoing in their pursuit of Champions League football next season.
Warnock, Reo-Coker and Carew looks to be out for Villa when they line up against us today but only 2 of those 3 are sure starters for Martin O’Neill. The loss of Carew is easily supplemented by Heskey but the absence of Warnock could be crucial to Villa. He has been a model of consistency throughout the season and could easily find his way into Capello’s plan for the World Cup this summer.
Stiliyan Petrov was thought to be also out for the game but has since been reported to be fit enough to feature. Together with Milner, Downing and Young they form a very dynamic and pacy midfield. As it is during the first game, if we can stifle the impact of Villa wingplay, then we have nulified the biggest threat that Villa possess.
For Arsenal’s side, we welcomed the return of Nicklas Bendtner on the bench and he will be joined by Samir Nasri as well. The big Dane has been out since the start of November and his presence allows us to have variations in attack. Most of those who played at Britannia Stadium would return to the bench as the first teamers are expected to feature. The line-up would probably be something like this;
I think it will be hard for Wenger to put Eastmond in the starting line-up today considering the opponent but this season especially, Wenger has managed to surprise me with his brave choices. But I’m sticking with my guess and it hinges a lot on Denilson being the shield in the middle. To be utterly honest, Denilson has been disappointing since his return from his back injury. He takes too much time on the ball and tends to lose the ball when pressured by the opposition.
I do think it’s way past the reason of being inexperience. He has had a full year of being in the first team and in that time Alex Song has already improved and moved past him as the first name on the list. There’s still much to do for Denilson if he intends to justify Wenger’s faith in him.
With Warnock’s injury, I do think that it’s plausible for Wenger to put Walcott in the squad. Theo has been massively disappointing in recent weeks. His touches are always too heavy and doesn’t seem to be on the same wavelength as his other team mates. But at the moment, I’m willing to give him a benefit of the doubt. The pace is still there but he must understand he can’t use that all the time. If Walcott can return to anywhere near his hattrick form for England, then it will be a good option to have. Though if he could harass Villa’s left back for half an hour or so, he can be withdrawn for the returning Bendtner.
With Fabregas in the form of his life, Arsenal are at the forefront of a league challenge. However the Spaniard cannot do it alone and for the next 4 months and especially the next 2 weeks, he will need his team mates to step up. On a day when Senderos is forced to move to Everton in search of first team football, those that have been allowed to stay must strive to avoid the same fate as the big Swiss. Let’s start today.
Here’s to a good win. Enjoy the match.