Arsenal play their final home game of the season against Aston Villa tomorrow afternoon, and it has become a must win game in my opinion. From a position a few weeks ago where they looked to be genuine contenders for the league title, they slipped so badly that third place is not even a certainty with two games to go. Man City are only two points behind Arsenal, but they don't play until Tuesday night, and it gives Arsenal a chance to make the gap five points.
Arsenal's home form has been pretty good this season, but it's not the home form of champions. Man Utd wrapped the league title up today, and they have won 17 of their 18 home games, with only West Brom managing to take a point off them. If Arsenal could match that home record they would be champions this season, because their away form is second to none in the league.
I've said all season that I'm not particularly impressed by the current United team, but they have managed to make Old Traffird such a fortress that teams are scared to go there. If this Arsenal team are to eventually learn one solitary lesson from this season, it's that they need to perform at their very best in every single home game. It costs more to watch Arsenal than any other team in the Premier League, and the fans who pay their hard earned money deserve to see the team play as if the game means as much to them.
Aston Villa have had a poor season by their standards, and they could still get relegated if results conspired against them, but it's highly unlikely. They have some good attacking players, but their defence has been a shambles at times this season, and Arsenal need to take advantage of that. Villa have conceded more goals away from home than any other team in the Premier League this season, and Arsenal are good enough to add quite more goals to that tally.
Even if Arsenal do manage a good win it won't send the fans away happy, and there are rumors of an early exit by quite a large number of Arsenal fans. The players should be partaking in a lap of appreciation after the game, but some Arsenal fans feel there isn't an awful lot to be appreciated. The league title was a real possibility for Arsenal this season, and if they had shown enough bottle and commitment in their last seven games they could be playing for the right to win that title tomorrow.
In team news there will be late fitness tests for both Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, and hopefully they will both be able to start. Gael Clichy is fit to return after missing out through injury last week, and with Laurent Koscielny now injured, it looks like Thomas Vermaelen could be set to make his first appearance since August for Arsenal. Tomas Rosicky picked up yet another injury and he won't be available, and Abu Diaby is still not ready to return from his most recent injury either.
I think Vermaelen will play, and Clichy should play as well with both Bacary Sagna and Johan Djouou making up the rest of the back four, and Wojciech Szczesny in goal. In midfield if Cesc plays it should see Aaron Ramsey drop to the bench, and if Nasri returns he should take Andrey Arshavin's place on the wing. Alex Song, Jack Wilshere, Robin Van Persie, and Theo Walcott are all pretty sure to start in my opinion.
Arsenal have far more than enough to beat a Villa team who have lost 10 times away from home, and conceded 39 goals on their travels. I'm hoping for the team to show some passion and desire, but it's impossible to say if they will or not. As a lifelong Arsenal fan it's tough to say that I don't know how hard my team will try, but after performances like the one against Stoke last week it's a sad fact.
Today's game should see the return of a former Arsenal great to the Emirates, as Robert Pires is in the current Villa squad. He may or may not play, but I'm sure he will get a great reception from the Arsenal fans anyway. He was a player I loved to watch play, and he was a member of the invincibles as well.
Arsene Wenger spoke yesterday about not particularly needing to buy any wide players, as he has Arshavin, Nasri, Walcott, and Nicklas Bendtner in the squad. If he thinks any of them come close to the impact Pires or Freddie Ljungberg had in the team, then he must be fooling himself. To consider Bendtner a wide player is an absolute joke, and it's not fair on the player, the team, or the fans. Arsenal do not have a wide player to take opponents on, and beat them, and make things happen as a result. Their play is too predictable, and it makes things too easy for opposing defenders.
Both Pires and Ljungberg brought different things to the team, but they both knew how to score, and use their talents to their best. Until Arsenal can fill their team with players of their ilk, it's hard to see how they can progress to the next level, and start winning trophies again. For all they bring to the team I don't think there is a single Arsenal fan who would choose Walcott and Nasri over Pires and Ljungberg. Of course it has something to do with age and experience, but does that mean Arsenal have to wait another three or four years for their players to develop before they reap the rewards.
I'm predicting a 3-1 win for Arsenal over Villa tomorrow, and I would be fairly sure RVP will get his name on the scoresheet yet again. I'm really hoping Cesc plays, as he is Arsenal's best player, and he makes things happen on the pitch. Arsenal have too many players who don't have that extra spark to make things happen, and he is bar far their most important player in my opinion.
That's it for today.
Here's a look at some great Robert Pires goals for Arsenal.
See You Tomorrow.