There have been a lot of things in the last six days that put a rosey colour on our glasses. We won the North London-derby (despite conceding first) by handing another 5-2 thrashing to the Spuds with a red card shown to the one of the worst characters in the Premiership, we qualified for the Knockout Stage of the Champions’ League while the billionaires’ toys are either eliminated (Manchester City) or close to the exit door (Chelsea), we are apparently close to persuading Theo Walcott to sign a new contract, Mark Hughes got sacked, the Emirates will pay us double the amount of money we are currently receiving from them and it seems we are favourites in the race to sign Klaas-Jan Huntelaar from Schalke in January.
Tomorrow we will face a team that should have been playing in the Championship this year. Aston Villa started last season in an encouraging fashion but in the end of the season they nearly got relegated thanks to the wise decision from their board to appoint Alex McLeish as their new manager. They played awful football, something that should be banned by FIFA and UEFA while Amnesty International should had made a serious report about it. During the 2011-12 season The Villains were our favourite opponents. There were only three teams that suffered defeats in both Premiership fixtures against us and Aston Villa were one of these. We won 2-1 at Villa Park in the match where we had seen a milestone goal (Albrighton scored the 10,000th goal in the history of the Premiership), there was a penalty for us (!) and there was a match-winning header from the giant figure of Yossi Benayoun.
Furthermore, we won the FA Cup match against the Villains as well, despite being two goals down after the first half and we had more penalties at the Emirates in that match than in all other home matches in 2011-12. At last, they snatched a 1-1 draw against the Spuds in one of the last fixtures of the season and helped us in getting 3rd place. There is the saddest part of the story about Villa – Stilian Petrov, Aston Villa captain, was diagnosed with leukaemia in March.
This season they tried to change their luck by bringing in Paul Lambert from Norwich while Ron Vlaar, a Dutch center-back from Sporting, joined in order to restore solidity to the Aston Villa defense along with the likes of Lowton and Bennett, both being young full-backs with no previous Premiership experience. Lambert has a big job to do given that McLeish did a hell of a job in making Aston Villa unwatchable. The Villains are without a proper left-back, Shay Given is on the bench since Lambert prefers Guzan, their midfielders suffer from inconstinency (though Bannan and especially N’Zogbia have some quality) while the most expensive player Darren Bent probably made Lambert wonder as well whether his own grandmother would be more prolific. However, it should be noted that Bent scored twice against us in 2010-11 in the match we lost 1-2 at Emirates and sent us to the Champions’ League play-off. His replacement has a similar last name to his – Christian Benteke was brought from Belgian side Genk and is a member of the very strong Belgian national team. Gabriel Agbonlahor, one of those English players that was overhyped in media and labelled by his former captain Stilian Petrov as good as Cristiano Ronaldo, is far from his best days as well. Andreas Weimann scored twice against FAnchester United two weeks ago and he is most likely to be Benteke’s partner in Villa’s attack tomorrow. Our defense will have to be in much better shape than in previous matches.
Paul Lambert got a touchline ban because of comments about horrible refereeing after their heavy 5-0 defeat at the Etihad last week which is a good news for us, but that will make me digress a little from tomorrow’s match. This whole campaign about respecting referees and their decision, no matter how ridiculous they were, make referees protected like polar bears and isn’t doing any favours to the football in England.
We will have to play well from the very start tomorrow, something that we didn’t do against neither the Spuds nor Montpellier. Actually, that is something we haven’t been doing during our whole season. Our opponents are fragile in defense and despite the fact we will miss Walcott, we should use their weaknesses. Oxlade-Chamberlain should fly on the wings given his cameo against the Spuds and decent performance against Montpellier. He will have to either cross to Giroud or help Sagna do that since I would like to see Giroud scoring goals without Walcott in the team as well. Podolski seems to be back in form again and he should continue his nice connection with Giroud and Vermaelen (or Gibbs if the Englishman is finally recovered).
Victory over the Villains is an imperative because it would mean our winning streak continue and we will need another injection of confidence before the midweek match at Goodison Park. Let’s gun them down!