Arsenal must put a horrendous week behind them when they come up against lowly Aston Villa this weekend. It is fair to say that the Gunners are vulnerable and there is no doubt every team, no matter what position they are in, will be coming to the Emirates knowing there is chance to pinch some points off an Arsenal team that is low on confidence and morale.
For Arsenal, the first thing that I am thankful to see is that Nacho Monreal will be returning to the starting line-up after missing the Champions League match against Bayern Munich as he was cup-tied. It was clear to see that Arsenal’s attack and defence was extremely disjointed on the left flank with Vermaelen and Podolski. Monreal’s return will no doubt improve Arsenal’s potency on attack down that side with Vermaelen likely to return to the center of defence to provide better cover than Koscielny did against Bayern.
In terms of other defensive options, Arsene Wenger has confirmed that Frenchman Bacary Sagna will miss the tie after succumbing to knee injury meaning young Carl Jenkinson will have the chance to redeem himself after picking up a sloppy red card against Sunderland a couple of weeks ago.
As usual the midfield picks itself with talisman Jack Wilshere and Spaniards Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta taking up the three spots in the middle. There is some chance that Wenger may rotate and utilise Diaby or Rosicky, but one feels that Wenger won’t deviate from his usual midfield three in a such an important match.
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Judging from the game against Bayern, I think it is fair to say that Olivier Giroud will be re-called to the starting line-up. Despite his indifferent form, the need for a classic number nine is pretty telling with Walcott’s small stature stacking up against him in the spearhead role. The Frenchman has the ability to hold-up the ball for Arsenal up front and also brings in great aerial ability on both attack and defence. All attributes that could be useful against Villa this weekend.
As it always is with Arsenal currently, the result is unpredictable and will depend on what Arsenal team decides to turn up on the day. They have the players and the talent, but are sorely lacking in confidence and will need this win to spur them on for the remainder of the season.
On Bacary Sagna…
Sagna has a problem with his knee. He will be out for Saturday certainly. I don’t think there are any other knocks really.
On Kieran Gibbs…
He is still out. He will be a few weeks yet.
Jenkinson Mertesacker Vermaelen (c) Monreal
- Arsenal have won only two of their last six home games against Aston Villa in the Barclays Premier League, after winning each of the previous eight.
- Villa have only scored 16 goals in 20 away trips to Arsenal in the Premier League.
- Villa boast Christian Benteke who has now scored in five successive appearances in all competitions (six goals).
- Theo Walcott has equalled his highest tally of assists in a single Premier League season (8 – the same as 2011-12).
- Only three players have produced more assists in the Premier League since the start of last season than Walcott (16), Mata, Silva and Valencia.
- Arsenal have caught more players offside than any other top-flight team this season (91).
- Arsenal have created fewer goalscoring chances from corners than any other side this season (24)
- Villa have been shown more yellow cards than any other Premier League team this season (54), while Arsenal have been shown fewer yellow cards than any other side (24).
- Arsenal have only scored one goal fewer (50) than they had at this point of their ‘Invincibles’ season of 2003-04 (51).
Arsenal 2 Aston Villa 1