After successive defeats against The Spuds and Braga, Arsenal make the trip to Aston Villa today for a Premier League clash. It's an early kick off and that gives Arsenal the opportunity to move to the top of the table for the second week in a row. Let's just hope that the commitment, attitude and concentration of the players can hold up this week.
According to Arsene Wenger the squad hasn't lost any more players since Tuesday night, with the exception of Cesc Fabregas of course. His latest hamstring injury has ruled him out for a minimum of two weeks, but I have a funny feeling it could be a good deal longer than that. He needs to recover from three years of continuous football, with virtually no breaks, or he will continue to get injured at his current rate.
In typical Arseblog style I had a dream about Arsenal last night, and it didn't go too well for Lukasz Fabianski. I woke up this morning thinking that he needed to be dropped, before I realised that it was only a dream. I can only hope that today's game goes a lot better than the version in my dream.
On to the team selection, and I would imagine that the boss will pick his strongest team possible despite an impending Carling Cup quarter final on Tuesday night against Wigan Athletic. Fabianski should play in goals, despite the fact that Manuel Almunia made his comeback for the reserves on Tuesday against Wolves. It will be interesting to see if Wojceich Szczesny keeps his place on the bench though.
The back four should consist of Bakary Sagna, Gael Clichy(if he has recovered from his back injury), Johan Djouru and Laurent Koscielny in my opinion. Of course we will probably see Sebastien Squillaci in the team instead of Djourou, but as I said last week I think Djourou should play judging by his current form. Whoever plays I think it's time for Arsenal to leave one of their centrebacks behind when they push up for corners or free kicks, to prevent teams from taking them apart with a high ball on the break. It's not as if Arsenal score from too many of those set pieces anyway.
In midfield Alex Song should play the holding role, but I want him to actually play it, and stop wandering forward. For me Denilson is clearly not up to the job, but he is being asked to fill in when song does a "Crocodile Dundee" and goes walkabout. In front of him I hope to see Jack Wilshere and Samir Nasri, but I have a horrible feeling that Denilson will play. For me Nasri is the player to replace Cesc while Cesc is injured, and he has to see it as an opportunity to claim that role for the next few weeks.
The attack will probably be led by Marouane Chamakh, although I do have a sneaking suspicion that Robin Van Persie was held back during the week to ready him for this game. On either side of whichever central player leads the line I would expect to see Andrey Arshavin and Tomas Rosicky.
It's a line up that is well capable of beating an Aston Villa side that has a fair deal of inexperienced players in it. All Arsenal need to do is show what they showed against The Spuds in the first half last Saturday, but they need to do it for the entire 90 minutes. If Arsenal can show the qualities that they did in those 45 minutes I have no doubt that they will win. I'm predicting a2-0 win, with Nasri running the show and scoring one of the goals.
November has been a very bad month for Arsenal, but they are still third in the league, and only two points off the top. Both of the teams above Arsenal have been well below their best this season, and if it remains that way then the Premier League title really is there for the taking. Of course those two teams may manage to find some real form, and if they do the question is, can Arsenal keep pace with them. I sincerely hope that they can, but performances like the second half last Saturday and Tuesday night make it hard to keep the faith sometimes.
However as eternal optimist, and lifelong Arsenal fan I will keep believing that Arsenal will play their beautiful football, and brush all other teams aside in their quest for world domination. My first memory as an Arsenal fan was on my fifth birthday, and with my 45th one pending I know that I've been a fan for 40 years at this stage. If things go horribly wrong I will still be there, as any true fan would be.
At the moment we are hearing a lot of complaints from fans who are claiming that Arsene Wenger has sold the club short and should go.
Sometimes for me Arsenal don't have enough control of their own destiny, and they need to take game by the scruff of the neck when the opportunity arises. In the 40 years I have supported them, Arsenal have played their very best football under Wenger, and it's so much better than the football we saw in previous days. I know it's been almost six years since Arsenal last won a trophy, but I am prepared to believe that things will come good, and the first of a host of trophies for this team is not far away.
Finally for today I have to mention that Aaron Ramsey has gone out on loan to Nottingham Forest until January 3rd. As Arsenal only have one reserve game in that team it makes sense for him to join a team that will have two games a week, more or less. He only made his comeback on Tuesday in that reserve game against Wolves, and he only played half of the game. I am sure that Forest will ease him back in, and hopefully they will return him in tip top condition in Januar