The home form has been positive this season, much in contrast to last season and that's one of the major factor's to why we're sitting top of the league. Apart from Birmingham, Milan and Man U, we've won all our home games this season and we're definitely favourites for today's game.
Arsenal vs Aston Villa
Arsene is looking forward to the game, and after the week we’ve had, it’s a game we need. Of course, another game against a midlands club is interesting as the last encounter cost us 2 points in the league and one of our of best players. Today is all about focus and all about playing to our strengths. We need to attack well and defend well. Adebayor needs to find his scoring boots, Cesc his passing range, Hleb his wizardry and Walcott needs to keep the form that saw him score two goals last Saturday.
“They are welcome tomorrow. We know they require full concentration. At the moment that is what we want and what we need. It has been a difficult week because we have been deeply hurt by what happened on Saturday. But we have recovered and are ready to focus on tomorrow’s game and we will get a strong response from the team. That is the number one priority and it is a good test for us tomorrow to see how well we can respond under difficult circumstances like that and to see how well we have recovered from it.”
Line Up and Team News
The first XI is pretty much established and we know all know who Arsene will pick if everyone is fit. Today’s line up is the same as last week, with Bendtner replacing Eduardo in the starting line-up and Diaby replacing Bendtner on the bench.
Manuel Almunia has been consistent this season and seems more agile than Lehmann. He has made some good saves and won us some points this season. Lehmann has done well when called upon, but his performances have seemed aged and reminiscent of Seaman’s last year at Arsenal. Quick Stat: Almunia has played 23 of the 27 premier league games this season.
With all the other topics surrounding the club, the dropped points and the Eduardo inury, everyone has forgotten a little unsung hero. Sagna has played against Milan and then against Birmingham so hat’s off to him, his performances have been remarkable.
There has been quite a bit of fuss about the Gallas “sulk”. For those of you who aren’t aware, after the game last Saturday Gallas sat on the pitch with his legs crouched and arms crossed. He sat there for two minutes shaking his head. At the Friday press conference, Arsene said that “Ideally he should not have responded like that” but continued today “His leadership qualities for me are outstanding, even if on that occasion he used his commitment in the wrong way. You want people in this job who care.”. I think that sums it up. More here.
Philippe Senderos’ form has in February has been commendable. With Kolo off to the African’s nation tournament, Philippe has stepped in and played well. He played in all 5 games last month and got a goal to his name. Although he had some shaky performances at the beginning of the season, he is now showing some of the form that ousted Sol Campbell out of the team.
Clichy had played admirably this season and has shown that he does have a hell of a lot of stamina. He has run up and down that left and he’s probably got the hardest job in our team as we don’t really have a left winger that he can work with and who can help him out. You often see Flamini arriving later on the scene, and Hleb or Rosicky tracking back-ish. He seems a little bit tired and two mistakes (one and against Man City and then the penalty against Birmingham) have shown that he is tiring as the season comes to an end. I wouldn’t mind to see him have a rest soon when Toure is back and play Gallas at left back, with Senderos and Toure in the middle, just for a game or two to give him a rest… more on Clichy next week.
Theo’s presence in the first team is kicking off. With injuries to Eduardo, Van Persie and Rosicky he will see more time in the close season. He will play on the right of midfield today against Villa and from that position he scored two goals against Birmingham last week. If he can be consistent in the final 11 games, then he can prove a very useful player on track to the league title. As discussed in Wednesday’s blog, he could play an increasingly bigger part in our quest for the title.
Flamini has been one of the stars of our season. His all out action and defensive qualities have seen him replace last season’s player of the year, Gilberto, in midfield. He has yet to sign a contract and we all hope he signs very soon!
Cesc has yet again shown his qualities and consistency this season with some excellent displays in midfield. He has contributed over 10 goals this season and although they have dried up recently, it’s a good return from him and he’s scored some crackers and some vital goals at the beginning of the season. He was the most obviously affected player last weekend and his reaction to Eduardo’s injury was the signal to how bad it was.
Hleb has been outstanding this season. His dribbling skills are phenomenal and he recently talked about being set free after Henry’s departure. He has the ability to float around the pitch, pass well and get to the byline. His has very much improved over last season and I predict his form in the run in could be a major factor in us winning the league.
Ade has scored 19 league goals this season and that’s an excellent return. One has to wonder if Van Persie had been fit how many goals they could have scored as a partnership although take nothing away from Eduardo and Bendtner who have scored when called upon.
Today sees Ade and Bendtner reunited up front. They’ve got a tag of not liking each other that much, but I think the press have taken it out of proportion. Today will be a good insight into their real relationship and I believe they can score goals together. I’ve been impressed in their partnership when they’ve played, Sp*rs aside. Let’s hope Niklas can start performances, if he can, it will be a serious aid in the absences of VP and Eduardo.
Our starting line up today looks like this:
And I suspect the bench will comprise of Lehmann, Hoyte, Gilberto, Denilson and a fit again Diaby.
The other combination, depending on tactics could see Walcott up front and Diaby on the left. I’m not sure if Arsene would rush Diaby back straight into the team and it would be a bit harsh on Bendtner. Gunners Live examined this formation on his blog yesterday. I’m sure we’ll find out in a few hours…!
Yesterday, The Canon looked at all the above options and the possibility of Ade starting up front by himself – we all know that I prefer a 4-4-2 wherever possible, but then again, I’m not the manager and that for a good reason.
Today’s game will require an effort from the crowd. Let’s make it a game to remember, I’m sure Eduardo will be watching in some manner…. The Online Gooner talks to every fan who is attending the game and it’s inpirational stuff.
Van Persie is out for today’s game but has been training for the last three weeks. He and Djourou trained with the first team yesterday but both are lacking match practice. Arsene is not going to rush back Van Persie and I don’t blame him as every time he has returned this season he has quickly got re-injured.
Toure looks like he is back although won’t be risked today, I thought he would be back for the Milan game, Arsene says he may not be. He spoke in his Friday pre-match press conference:
“Kolo Toure seems to think that he has a chance [for Tuesday],” Wenger added. “But it is a small one and he is definitely not in the squad for tomorrow.”
Rosicky catalogue of injuries are worrying and he is still out with a recurrence of a hamstring injury. Arsene said:
“Tomas Rosicky is not back either. He got a bad kick in front of his knee and it affected his hamstring. For a while he had pain in the knee and the hamstring. He looks now to recover but he has no chance for Tuesday.”
Away from tomorrow’s game…
Death threats are idiotic, so is the FA
Arsene spoke on Friday about the death threats that Martin Taylor received. He was questioned rather inappropriately about his play to part in this and answered emphatically.
“I am responsible for what I say; I came out and retracted what I said. I didn’t want to go overboard. I take that responsibility. But people who make death threats have to feel responsible for what they do. It is idiotic and not accepted but I do not want to be responsible for that. We are not in a club where hate is part of the culture.”
I don’t quite understand why people are pointing the finger at Arsene. Obviously, death threats are not something that we want but how can anyone say it’s Arsene’s fault. The foray around this has detracted the severity of the tackle.
Listening to the Arsecast yesterday, Arseblog and Gunnerblog discussed how it’s hard to understand to see why Arsene is the bad guy in all of this and Taylor is the victim. They’re a phone call to the FA in which the four game ban for Aliaidiere verus the three game ban for Martin Taylor and frankly the FA are plain wrong. There is something very much wrong with the system.
News Round Up
In other news, Hleb has moved to distance himself from a move to Inter Milan. It seems that every-time Arsenal are doing well, the Italian and Spanish sharks are lurking with intent. Diaby has been recently linked with Inter, Flamini has constantly been linked with Juve (which Juve have moved to dismiss), Rosicky has been linked many times with Athletico Madrid and we all know the history of Cesc and Real Madrid, Henry with Barcelona and even Adebayor with Man U.
Hleb’s agent does try to appease the link:
“I can understand why clubs would be interested in Alex, but Alex loves life at Arsenal. He feels he is at the best club in the world.”
Goodplaya has been talking about the trauma of Saturday and the Gallas situation and agrees that he’s made a difference this season.
Young Guns, a very reliable source on the youth scene at Arsenal has reported that Arsenal are furious of the last of action than Fran Merida has seen since Chris Coleman left.
Happy Birthday Carlos Vela
Finally, even though he’s not with us until next season, today is Carlos Vela’s birthday! So Happy Birthday Carlos. For all the news on Carlos Vela, check out this blog, totally dedicated to Carlos and his progress.
Although the Sports Granola doesn’t think so, they’ve predicted a 1-1 draw, I have a very good feeling that we’re going to win and win comprehensively.
Here’s to a 5-0 win over Villa at the Emirates. Thanks to the Ninja who spotted several spelling mistakes which have all now been corrected lol!]]>