Aston Villa Preview: Win And Take It From There
A key weekend in the chase for the Premier League placings for many reasons, not least of which is the meeting between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge. From an Arsenal perspective, it is hard to work out the best outcome. Presuming an Arsenal victory, their points total is 58 this evening which could leave them 8 / 1, 7 / 3 or 5 / 4 points ahead of Chelsea / Tottenham. To be honest, the result that leaves both clubs more than a victory in Arsenal’s wake seems best, especially with Chelsea still involved in the Champions League. They may not be favourites to win the trophy but a seductive lick of Lady Luck’s lip combined with refereeing incompetence could see that happen, no matter how unlikely. That means that fourth is not quite the achievement believed.
Those matters are irrelevant unless Arsenal win. According to the media this morning, Villa have gained more points at The Emirates than any other club. Whether they can continue that run is open to debate with Arsenal’s six wins on the bounce; Villa though are obdurate away opponents, suffering only three defeats in their fourteen matches. Those defeats have been at the hands of Tottenham, Manchester City and Newcastle United which signals that the gap in quality is a problem which is before they contend with Robin van Persie.
Attracting attention from Spain is not surprising. That it is Real Madrid making the noises is given his commercial representative’s relationship with a certain Catalan club. The Dutchman’s importance is underlined by Alex McLeish in his pre-match build-up and it is good to read his views on van Persie’s leadership. Forget the use of the word ‘gamesmanship‘, that is simply the Villa manager seeking to plant ideas in the minds of the officials. For a long time, Arsenal lacked leadership; now we have not one but several. That comes with growing maturity of other players as well Sagna and Vermaelen being fit for sustained spells. But this is the Arsenal captain we are talking of and with due respect to his predecessors, there is more overt leadership now and that is what the club has needed.
Arsène spoke yesterday of finishing the season well, aside from the Champions League aspirations. Any future title challenge is dependent on the squad. Talk centres around the contracts of Walcott and van Persie with links being made between Dzeko’s desire for first team football and the Dutchman so far not committing to Arsenal beyond the end of his current contract. The manager believes that additions to the squad will stretch beyond the much-rumoured signing of Podolski in the next week or twenty,
We will not be a lot on the market, quantity-wise I mean. Quality-wise, certainly. But the [maximum] number of the squad is 25. We have many players out on loan and we will take a gamble if we find top, top quality of course. But don’t forget we have many players out on loan and we have not had Jack Wilshere or Abou Diaby for the whole season.
These players will be back and it means that number and quality-wise we are strong because we are in the position we are in without these players.
The signing of Podolski is against the Arsenal grain if it happens, particularly in terms of the timing. Not the speed mind,
You want to make me say that last year was bad and I agree with you – last year was terrible for us because we finished on August 31 at 11.55pm and we do not want to repeat that, of course.
Back to this afternoon. I am not sure of any changes today. The only changes would be out of reaction to Wednesday, perhaps Ramsey or Rosicky is a touch fatigued and will make way for Oxlade-Chamberlain or Gervinho. I would disappointed if it is Rosicky, particularly on the back of the preceding ten days off. However with most of the squad back to fitness, it would be a touch derelict to over-use players now. However, Rosicky is in such scintillating form it feels inconceivable that he would not start at least. With that in mind, I expect to see the following line-up,
Szczesny; Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Rosicky, Song, Arteta; Walcott, van Persie, Oxlade-Chamberlain
Before they kick-off, the result at Stamford Bridge will be known. It is not irrelevant but the players must focus on their requirement for three points. And let’s be honest, they have not had a problem focussing on winning. Long may that continue.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it. ’til Tomorrow.