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Likely starters

There’s a trip to Bolton looming in midweek, where we’ll continue our climb up the league table in search of that Champions League spot. But first there’s the matter of the FA Cup to deal with. A small matter or a big matter? Depends on the individuals. Arsene Wenger loves a bit of this competition but not over qualification to Europe’s premier competition. Where does the rest of the Arsenal community stand on this?

I understand the financial implication of us failing to qualify to Champions League. I can also get that the pool of players for purchase (if money is ever spent) will be reduced significantly if the Europa League is the competition on offer. I know many season ticket holders might be more reluctant to renew and not bothered to go to watch Arsenal on a Thursday night. All very valid points.

I don’t want us to finish lower than 4th as well but I can’t say that I wont follow the team’s adventure should they really end up playing the Europa League. Ultimately, I stand where Wenger stands. That there should be no prioritisation of competitions. No choosing of the league over the cups. We should play our best available teams for each and every match, that includes Villa tonight.

Winning matches breeds confidence and we’re in very low supply on that front. The players needs a lift to get back to where we were before the 3 consecutive league losses. Progress in the FA Cup will only be good for us. A good win tonight might just be the catalyst to turn our season back on the right course. There will be fewer days to recuperate what with the trip to Reebok Stadium but the boost that could be taken from a win tonight must not be underestimated.

For all points and purposes, it means that Robin Van Persie must play. Yes, I know that Park Ju Young needs to be given matches to at least see whether he’s worthy of remaining with the team and no one wants to see that more than me. However, the gulf in quality is too obvious to be neglected. If Wenger wants to start them together, by all means, but hopefully not the Korean over the Dutchman.

Thierry Henry might also be in contention should he not fail the late fitness test together with Bacary Sagna and Mikel Arteta. That said, with only 40 minutes from 2 substitute appearances under his belt, it’s safe to say that Henry is not yet match fit. With another 4 weeks left to go on his loan stint, there’s very little chance of us seeing Henry in first full (34 year old version) flight.

The return of Francis Coquelin is one very good news. He has shown so much promise this season and should continue to get minutes here and there throughout the rest of the season. I think he will play tonight but where he plays is the bigger question. Does Wenger stick with Nico Yennaris after his composed display against Manchester United? Does Wenger prefer the left footed Ignasi Miquel to stay at left back? Or do Wenger intend to give Alex Song a breather in the defensive midfield role?

I don’t claim to think for the manager but I will be tempted to start Yennaris and Coquelin in both the full back positions. That will leave Song in midfield. If we’re winning the game with a couple of goal’s advantage (yeah, I know. When was the last time that happened?), then Miquel could come in for Song and Coquelin can be moved back into midfield. No disrespect to Miquel. He’s being asked to play in an unfamiliar role which he has coped well, to a certain extend.

Walcott—Van Persie—Oxlade-Chamberlain

Miquel would certainly relish another chance in the first team in his preferred centreback position, a position which Wenger will have to make choices tonight. Thomas Vermaelen is a damn good player but he’s no left back. His presence in the middle is needed and the fact that we’re able to field our best partnership in the centre of defence should be motivation enough to field him there with Laurent Koscielny. Per Mertesacker has done well to a certain degree but he can have no complaints if this selection is made.

Up front, the last thing fans want to see is this match being used as another 70 minutes for Andrey Arshavin to pick up his form again. Our appetite has been whetted by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and we want more. Don’t think even RvP himself will have to much to argue with that. If AOC is chosen ahead of Arshavin, it will only be because of his performance last Sunday and not because Wenger is succumbing to the pressure from fans’ voice of discontent after the whole substitution debacle.

We did beat Villa away in the league fixture but only by the skin of our teeth. Villa are not particularly good side but we will do well not to fall into a sense of complacency. In Darren Bent, they have a striker who is not adverse to scoring at the Grove. Though out of form this season, Charles N’Zogbia is another one who seemed to performed when we’re the opponent.

I can’t stressed how much I want us to win tonight. This is a very viable competition for us to win (nothing to do with United being knocked out) and it would be such a big loss to not go all out for it. But at this point in time, the team needs a big boost.

Nothing like a good win to achieve that.