Saturday, 23 February 2013

Arsenal's Premier League Game With Aston Villa Previewed

It's been a very bad week for Arsenal with an FA Cup exit followed by a home defeat in the Champions League. Bayern Munich are a very good team and fully deserved their 3-1 win on Wednesday night, but Blackburn were different matter last Saturday. They came to stifle Arsenal, rode their luck and took their only decent chance of the game.

Of course Blackburn were helped by Arsenal's attitude or lack thereof on the day and that's something which can't be allowed to happen today. Champions League progress looks to be almost an impossibility now for Arsenal and they have to concentrate on their remaining 12 league games. They still have a very good chance of qualifying for next season's Champions League and they will have to be at their best to take it.

In team news Bacary Sagna has a knock and won't play which should mean Carl Jenkinson plays at right back. He got sent off for two yellow cards in the last game he played when Arsenal won 1-0 away to Sunderland a few weeks ago. He showed he has a lot still to learn in that game and he won't get an easy ride up against Gabriel Agbonlahor today.

At least Nacho Monreal will return to the team which means the boss has to choose two from Per Mertesacker, Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny to play in central defence. I think it will probably be Mertesacker and Vermaelen who get the nod to complete the defence. Villa have looked good in attack in recent weeks and Arsenal will have to kept alert in defence at all times.

I think Arsenal have to play their strongest team and that will probably see Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla and Mikael Arteta in midfield. I would hope to see the attacking trio of Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski play too. I think those three have developed an understanding between them and offer Arsenal the best chance of winning the game.

There should be some real strength on the bench too with Tomas Rosicky, Aaron Ramsey, Gervinho, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Koscielny all waiting for a chance to show what they can do. If subs are needed to change the game hopefully some of those players can do just that.

Villa won their last game to move out of the relegation zone, but they hadn't won in eight games before that. Since the return of both Agbonlahor and Charles N'Zogbia from injury they have looked like a much more potent attacking force. Christian Benteke is a good centre forward and he is benefiting from the service provided by both of them.

Despite the attacking threat posed by Villa they are still vulnerable in defence and have conceded more goals away from home than any other team. Arsenal have only been out scored at home by United and they shod get plenty of opportunities today. It's vital that they don't waste good goalscoring chances and give Villa something to hold on to at any stage.

I could write for ages about what player needs to do what, but the simple fact of the matter is Arsenal are better than Villa and need to go out and show just that. There's no room for self pity after Tuesday night and Villa need to pay the price for Arsenal's poor week. If Arsenal can go out and impose their own game on Villa from first minute to last I am confident they will win.

They need to be told what it means to support Arsenal to the tens of thousands of fans in the stadium and the millions at home. For some it's the only highlight of their week in what are very tough times and it can affect how they feel until Arsenal play again. The players are privileged to earn the money they do and lead the lifestyles they do and it's time they repaid a little bit of that to the fans.

Despite all the gloom and doom recently Arsenal are only four points off fourth place and fifth off third. The two teams directly above them have away games this weekend and Chelsea in particular have a very tough trip to City. Spurs don't play until a trip to West Ham on Monday night and things could look an awful lot better by then.

With Spurs up in Arsenal's next game it's a real opportunity to break into the top four. They have taken 10 points in their last four games and need to continue on that good league run at least. Trophies may be gone for another season, but there's still plenty to play for.

I think Arsenal can and will win today and by a couple of goals too. I hope the players have the character and the strength to bounce back from their disappointments of the last week and put in a performance to show they still are a team to be feared.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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