Preview: Arsenal vs Aston Villa
By Randy Osae
What a little week changes and provides.
It’s no more doom and gloom in north London – when just seven days ago, many feared they were starring utter crisis. It took a simple victory over Manchester United to retrieve the colorful atmosphere and a very youthful eleven in the Carling Cup to provide feelings of pride and depth in Arsenal’s armory.
The tide has been so relaxed during this less-than-a-week spell that many are busy selecting fantasy line-ups of Arsenal’s squad and figuring whether the Carling Cup kids exceed the first-team in quality. Recent days when lamentation was not odd among every Arsenal fan now seem miles far away in the past.
But the same way joy was splashed in the space of seven days, is how it can easily be extinguished by another weekend of football. Reality says Arsenal’s main flaw this season has been inconsistency. Hopefully, the Gunners will not repeat those blemishes on Saturday.
Even though the victory over United felt like a high sky-lifter, it didn’t shorten too many distances on the table. Arsenal still lie six points adrift of leaders Chelsea and Liverpool and both sides face fairly feeble oppositions this weekend. Wenger’s men will and can hope for the unexpected but the job of impairing life for Aston Villa is what’s urgent.
Had Middlesbrough not defeated Martin O’Neill’s men on their own patch last weekend, the Villans would have been still breathing on Arsenal’s neck on the table. Villa are a mere three points behind Arsenal at fifth place after previously trailing the Gunners only by goal difference. Indeed, to the neutrals, this match-up is perhaps a typical 3rd/4th place battle. Since surrendering league leadership in mid-September, Arsenal have been playing a leap-frogging game with Aston Villa in that dark-horse role of the top four.
Last weekend’s massive three points was part of a move to climb up not to pull off the edge in a showdown.That makes Saturday’s clash vital as any other, and Arsenal could finally create some breathing space and possibly cut deficits with maximum points.
But then on, Villa are no mild visitors to the Emirates. They have managed poised draws in their last two visits and came within seconds of registering their first triumph in 14 league matches at Arsenal during March until Nicklas Bendtner notched home a vital equalizer.
The Dane could easily be demoted to the bench with the return of Emmanuel Adebayor. Manuel Almunia is also welcomed back but Van Persie will sit out his final game of suspension while Eboue is still missing with a knee problem.