It’s back to the Premier League once again for Arsenal tonight and this time it is a trip to Villa Park against the 13th placed team in the league. It is the same position we were in last week. Despite the derby day defeat and the horrendous loss away at Champions League first-timer, Braga; Arsenal once again could go top with a win here. It may only last a few hours with Manchester United only playing their game later in the day but it is a good position to be in.
Team new for Arsenal is just about the same as a week ago. The only difference is that we will be without Cesc Fabregas who is on another one of his hamstring troubles. I would expect the line-up to be very much like the one that played in the derby with a change here or there.
Jack Wilshere should take the place of the injured Fabregas and perhaps for the first time this season, play in a role which is most suited to him. He has played a lot of games this season but all of them in the second holding midfield role which is honestly not his preferred one. Wilshere’s skills and dribbling abilities are better served as the most advanced player of the midfield triumvirate.
Of course, Arsene Wenger could also play Samir Nasri in that role just behind the main striker. Nasri seemed to have dropped a pace of two in the last two games after his sparkling early season form. In spite scoring the opener in the derby last weekend, he looked tired afterwards and did not managed to complete the game. With a wide role, Nasri has much more freedom to roam about rather than be restricted with the midfield role which also requires him to track back should Alex Song decides to go on one of his foraging runs again. Arsenal do have a third option in Andrey Arshavin but his tendency not to track back means a it will be a big risk to put him there.
With John Carew expected to recover and looks increasingly likely to feature in this game, Arsenal need height and power in defence. That would mean a continuation of the best centre-back partnership without Thomas Vermaelen. Sebastien Squillaci and Johan Djourou have played well together and were unlucky to be split-up for the Spuds’ game. We need their height and presence to keep a close watch on Carew and his flick-ons.
No matter who the manager is at Aston Villa, you can bet that they will utilize their main strength which is wing-play. They’ve got Stewart Downing on one side and Ashley Young on the other. One footed-player who plays on opposite sides of the wing contrasting to their favoured foot. That would mean a lot of cutting inside to look for the shot or the cross. The rule book would suggest that our defender always shows them the outside and force them to use their weaker foot, something which I really hope has been drummed into the ears of Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy.
Most pleasing and the reason why I’m really looking forward to tonight’s game is the chance to see Robert Pires in action once again. He may have aged since the last time he played for Villareal against Arsenal but you can be assured that he can still find the pass, if required. I hope he do well and I do love Pires and the best way for him to affirm that is to provide the assist for Robin Van Persie to break his duck. I don’t mind if it’s an own goal either.
Here’s to a good victory. Till tomorrow.