Aston Villa Preview: A Land Of Opportunity

The Premier League likes to portray itself as the footballing ‘land of opportunity‘. For Arsenal, it is a golden opportunity in every sense of the occasion. The chance to put some daylight between themselves and fourth place; a temporary chance to snatch second place; the opportunity to claw back the deficit to the leaders to four points. If a team needed incentive to win this afternoon, Arsenal has it.

So do Aston Villa for all of those opportunities afforded to Arsenal, extend themselves to the Midlands ‘top side’. The two sides are level on points, separated by Arsenal’s superior goal difference. In an era of Premier League football clubs having an international ownership, Randy Lerner has shown that it need not all be debt-laden gloom and doom. Whether he has put his own money in or is in hock to a variety of banks, I know not. If it is the latter, he has managed the situation in PR terms considerably better than the owners of West Ham and Portsmouth.

For those who seek solace in omens, expect that Arsenal will fail to win. The clubs have met five times in the immediate aftermath of Christmas, Villa winning thrice, the remainder drawn encounters. One hundred and four years ago, the two teams met on the same date, Arsenal succumbing to a 1-2 reverse. The two most recent encounters ended all square with Arsenal the authors of their own misfortune in letting a two-goal lead slip at Villa Park this time last year. Ho and indeed, ho, ho. That was then but this is now.

From the side that flattened Hull in more ways than one, little change is expected. Late last week, a Fabregas return seemed to be on the cards. Having failed to complete a training session on Christmas Eve, I suspect it will be the trip to Portsmouth that sees the mercurial Spaniard return. Armand Traore is fit once more, recovering from the niggle picked up at Anfield. That being the case, it would be a surprise if he were not included in the starting line-up. Pace is something that the Villa attack has in abundance. Whilst Silvestre has experience, he may be given a torrid time by Young, Downing or Milner, their youthful exuberance potentially outweighing any nous that is lacking on their part.

It is the axis of Milner and Young which may provide Arsenal with a potent attacking opening. Both like to push forward which will leave space, Diaby being more than happy to exploit such opportunities in the past, pressing onwards to the opposing penalty area when given the chance to do so. The speed of Arsenal’s attack is something which may neuter their Villa counterparts to some extent; if you know that the outcome of putting too many players into attack is to be hit with a faster counterstrike, the natural reaction is to restrict your own attacking instincts. Walcott can meanwhile keep Downing and Warnock very busy by pushing on the right, keeping Villa stretched on either flank will be a key feature if Arsenal are to prevail.

The team I would expect Arsene to go with is:

Almunia; Sagna, Vermaelen, Gallas, Traore; Denilson, Song, Diaby; Walcott, Arshavin, Eduardo

Villa should not be taken lightly. They have won at Anfield and Old Trafford, beating Chelsea at Villa Park but held by Tottenham at home in their recent encounter. These results were threatened last year so this season cannot held to be a flash in the pan. Arsenal has yet to record a victory over today’s visitors at The Emirates, last year’s 0 – 2 defeat preceded by two 1 – 1 draws. Villa enjoy their visits but this time do not encounter an Arsenal side in the throes of navel-gazing as has been the case previously. This Arsenal team are alive to the chance of catching Chelsea and have a determination about themselves which is often overlooked.

Villa are an opponent to be respected but not feared. This is an afternoon where Arsenal has the chance to take a big step towards catching Chelsea. Forty years ago, astronauts bucked historical trends by landing on the moon, taking giants leaps for mankind. I seek nothing so grandiose; three points will suffice.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it. ’til Tomorrow.

273 thoughts on “Aston Villa Preview: A Land Of Opportunity

  1. Gainsbourg69 says:

    Game over. Now the commentators are pouring on the praise on United. They’re getting philosophical even. My lord.

  2. PIRESAHOLIC says:

    Its sickening gainsbourg it really is. SAF is a genius in their eyes.

  3. Passenal says:

    Just back from the game and celebrating the win with a sparkling glass of Spanish cava in honour of the best midfielder in the world and he plays for Arsenal!

    It seems like goals from free kicks are like buses for Arsenal. You wait for ages and then 2 come along!

    What a fabulous day – Villa got nowhere near us. Gallas controlled gobby well today and the one time he got away, Almunia was there with one of his best saves of the season. It seems like Arsene giving him his confidence with the armband in the absence of Cesc has really boosted him.

    Nasri and Diaby kept the ball really well and I thought they were both great today. And once again we put to bed the lie that we are soft, because we also out muscled them physically as well today.

  4. LimparAssist says:

    There’s an absolute spanner of an Arsenal fan on 5Live right now.

  5. LimparAssist says:

    Passenal, I wish you could’ve come across this guy I just suffered on the radio just now, at the game. His name was Tony. He was the grizzliest, gripiest old scrooge you’ve ever heard. Maybe you could’ve given him a good shake.

    He claimed we need a striker, a bruiser type, like Henry or Wright (bruisers?! What?) He claimed we need a ‘protector’ for Cesc. Maybe you could’ve pointed out Alex Song for him. He wants Viera back. Arse backward idiots like Tony need a good slap. It just really gets me down how many of them are. My cousin was at the game, called me and said, game of two halves, Cesc won us the game – he sounded miserable! I despair of Arsenal fans sometimes.

  6. Maria says:

    I throught we were on top both halfs and before Cesc came on we had aleast two goal line clearances.

    BTW is this the first goal Cesc has scored directly from a freekick?

  7. FunGunner says:

    @ LimparAssist
    I reckon he deserves a slap, not a shake. The 5Live researchers must filter out all the non-numpties and only allow the crazies on the show!

  8. FunGunner says:

    Oh, and you can slap your cousin as well. Unless he’s bigger than you…

  9. LimparAssist says:

    Hold your horses, there’s a sensible Arsenal fan on now! Good lord.

  10. Passenal says:

    I know what you mean Limpar Assist, but I agree with FG except it would be a good kicking that I’d give him. We were playing well first half and in full control, but both Arshavin and Eduardo couldn’t quite get that first goal, which would have been all we needed to open the flood gates. Some people will never be happy no matter what. Cesc didn’t get injured due to the lack of a ‘minder’ and that is highly disrespectful to suggest that the best midfielder in the world needs one.

  11. LimparAssist says:

    Shut up Spooney, let the man talk!

  12. FunGunner says:

    Arse backward is a very good name for those fans. They always want to repeat what went before. But the world of football doesn’t stand still.

  13. LimparAssist says:

    Yes, and another one. Take that Doomer Tony. Daft old clown.

  14. FunGunner says: would be a good kicking that I’d give him.

    ha ha ha! Can I have tickets for that?

  15. LimparAssist says:

    There were many highlights to my afternoon actually, FG, but maybe the funniest was when my Doomer cousin, on the phone to me, suddenly stopped dooming and started cursing, as his bus lurched off into the distance! He’d been stood in the wrong queue or something. He didn’t even say goodbye, the phone just went dead with him grumbling. I was walking home at the time and broke into a little hop step of gleeful satisfaction. What a wonderful day.

  16. Maria says:

    Am listening to the Arsene post-match press conference and AW may look at MF aswell with injuries to Denilson and Cesc. But still likes Arshavin up front so he will continue there.

  17. Poliziano says:

    We were on top for the whole match today. Our superiority was evident in every minute of the game. Fabregas had an incredible, almost magical, effect today. It was similar to a game in the last European Championships when he came on for Spain.

  18. FunGunner says:

    Brilliant contribution from Alan Davies on 5Live.

  19. Passenal says:

    Cesc is a very intelligent player and I think when he sits on the bench he is analysing what is going on in front of him, which is why he is always so effective coming off the bench, because he has already got a plan and sees what needs to be done to turn things around. I know it’s a long way off and probably won’t be in my lifetime, but I see him as a future football manager.

  20. FunGunner says:

    ^ Absolutely. He does the same while he’s injured as well. Perhaps a future Arsenal manager? 🙂

  21. lagooner says:

    Great game. Song is a monster as our holding midfielder.

    Funniest moment from the Fox Soccer commentary team”

    “Almunia literally took his eyes off the ball”

    It’s looking like the February 6th game against Chelsea could determine who has the momentum heading into the final stretch. Anything less than a win for Chelsea should put us in prime position.

  22. Passenal says:

    lagooner according to the media man u are breathing down chelski’s neck, meanwhile we are 1 point behind them with a game in hand, yet we seem to be invisible. I like it when no one notices us gaining ground on the outside track.

  23. Muppet says:

    The overwhelming evidence that Arsenal are a club in crisis is that the directors do not speak and this is the most convincing proof that I can think of. Despite loads of newspapers reports about goings on at the board level – NOT A SINGLE QUOTE. There is no possible way that this is a normal corporation. There are many BELIEVABLE theories about what is going on, but until the rumours, and they EXIST, become TRUTH, and they may be hiding it from us, it sounds like conspiracy theories I know, that won’t be enough for some people. We shouldn’t need confirmation. How is there no doubt ? It is because they dont issue denials.

    The state of play is this:

    – Arsenal has a propaganda machine unrivalled since Goebbels.

    – No minutes of board level meetings are ever published or revealed.

    – The club will be sold to the highest bidder in the summer

    – Top Secret meetings are held on a monday night

    – There is masonic influence

    – Wenger is french.

    – The Youth Development programme is just a tax dodge.

    – The training ground is used for more sinister purposes.

  24. FunGunner says:

    lol Muppet

    I too am loving the pundits’ wilful refusal to acknowledge the threat from Arsenal. It is astonishing the lengths to which people will go to avoid admitting they might have got something wrong.

  25. Muppet says:


    ed: hack, Arsenal have just beaten Villa, the on form team in the premiership, the team that beat ‘Pool and Man U at home and have beaten Chelsea 2-0. Look hack, we need to keep this quiet.

    hack: err.. ed ?

    ed: Yes.. low profile. Look, we need another explanation for what is happening in the premiership this year.

    hack: err.. well… some strange results

    ed: YES.. that’s the word.. “Strange”. That explains why they are all closing in.. print the word strange, and mention that Man U are closing in.

    hack: yes ed. It’s a strange premiership.

  26. Poliziano says:

    “I know it’s a long way off and probably won’t be in my lifetime.”

    Don’t say that, Passenal. I’m sure you’re not that old.

    Forgive me for writing on a matter unrelated to football. I remember some time ago you said you are fond of War and Peace. An English friend bought me a DVD of a serialised version of War and Peace that was broadcast by the BBC in the early seventies. Have you seen it? It’s really very good. Pierre is played by Anthony Hopkins, and he is excellent – almost exactly as I imagined him.

  27. shotta-gunna says:

    The dumb pundits who wrote us off all season, especially after the Chelsea game, now have to find some plausible excuse to justify having to retract most of their b.s.

    Cometh Kevin Palmer of ESPN. It seems last year we “lacked the physical power and maturity to back up their majestic passing football.” This numpty, in one sweep of his laptop, completely erases from memory the fact that last year we had all of our creative players injured during mid-season and three out of four 1st team defenders injured in late season. Despite these blows, I heard an amazing statistic that, for the entire 2009 calendar year, we were the most successful team in the premier league (easily verifiable on the Arsenal FC website). But why should facts get in the way of the nonsense spouted by Mr Palmer and co.

  28. shotta-gunna says:

    PS: Mr Palmer and the hacks are now excusing ManU’s swoon to the injury to their defenders. No such excuses were offered on Arsenal’s behalf late last season. I thought whatever was good for the goose was good for the gander. Bull shit artists, all of them.

  29. Passenal says:

    Maybe I just feel that old Poliziano!

    I remember that series, but I didn’t know it was available on DVD. I might have to check it out as my memory of it was that it was a really well cast and well acted adaptation. But then again, the BBC are pretty good at the costume dramas.

  30. Muppet says:

    Absolutely shotta-gunna. There is such a lack of analysis applied by pundits it beggars belief as to why they have the title. Ole Gunner has consistently exposed the nonsense that gets written; even by broadsheet journalists, who are supposed to steer clear of lazy, ill written trite. The fact is that we lost 4 key players in 2007-2008 and we were easily the best team in the country during that period. We had the misfortune to lose the services of at least 7 players the following season, either through transfers in the case of Gilberto, Flamini, Hleb and Diarra, and then players who spent months on the treatment table, including Rosicky, Fabregas, Walcott and Gallas. We lose the vital services of three physical players in Bendtner, VP and Diaby against Chelsea and suddenly we are lightweight and weak. We didn’t look weak today though, did we ? I didn’t see anybody being outfought in a physical challenge, far from it. The hacks have never actually stopped to think about what would happen if we had the majority of our key players fit and available, for the majority of the season. On the evidence of today – we would be absolutely frightning. We just need minimal injuries from here on in till May.

  31. Gainsbourg69 says:

    The league is not strange. It’s competitive for the first time in ages. So much so that there are very few points between 18th place and 8th. Teams like Birmingham, Fulham and Burnley are strong at home and are not dying off midway through the season. Teams at the bottom can take points away from teams at the top. I haven’t seen this for at least a decade.

  32. Passenal says:

    Muppet, that is why I have no respect for any of those hacks. There is no objective analysis of the teams they just string a lot of well worn cliches together with big words if they are one of the ‘quality’ papers and smaller words for the tabloid readers, but it’s the same old bull crap on a daily basis Only manure is decimated by injuries we just lack strength in depth.

  33. Muppet says:

    Quite Passenal. Let’s just hope that in May that they will be choking on their words. Martin Samuel in The Times suggested that the sound of sirens from a white van could be heard in Wenger’s press conference could be heard when he suggested that Chelsea would drop points.

  34. Gainsbourg69 says:

    Chelsea, regardless of the ACN, were always going to drop points. They are lucky they haven’t been plagued by a few injuries just yet. Maybe by the time the champions league kicks off again and fatigue starts to hit those old legs, they’ll succumb to the injury zombie. Ditto for Man U.. Rio Ferdinand may not come back this season and they have no cover on the flanks worth mentioning. So if Rooney, their only scoring threat, goes down they’ll be fvcked. The pundits, however, can’t be made to admit that those teams have little depth. It doesn’t fit the narrative which states that MU, Chelsea and Liverpool are big clubs with big players. And big clubs with big players can’t lose to clubs with inexperienced players.

  35. Paul N says:

    What a win!!!

    The whole team played great but Diaby is the player I am enjoying immensly, dude is unbelievable.

    Remember “Sell Diaby, Song and Denilson, they are not Arsenal quality”. What a bunch of idiots some Arsenal fans are.

    Walcott was very effective when he came on also, class.

    Eduardo played well but is lacking that cutting edge in front of goal but its coming, he looks better every match.

    Dont worry about the idiotic reporters, what they have to say will make our PL and CL titles much sweeter!!!

    NO FEAR!!

  36. Kitchen Sink says:

    Wenger should buckle up and go for James Milner and Heskey in January..

  37. Dupsffokcuf says:

    If Wenger went for Heskey I think he would be buckled up.

  38. Muppet says:

    Actually, both are good players and Milner is close to Arsenal quality, if not Arsenal quality.

    Still, won’t stop the detractors for moaning about the need for a new striker or the poor form of Eduardo. I am fervently hoping that Eduardo will regain his mojo from 2007. Wouldn’t that be something.

    And what a brilliant performance by Diaby today.

  39. Kitchen Sink says:

    forget my previous attempt at humor at 10:47..

    at least MOTD was special today..

    Wenger must be lynched ..


  40. DukeGoonem says:

    The analysis on motd is pants.

    Better off watching news at ten.

  41. DukeGoonem says:

    At least news at ten acknowledge we are in a title fight.

  42. Passenal says:

    Apparently Villa’s midfield and defence contained us for 60 minutes. They must have been at a different match because our midfield dominated throughout and it was only a lack of sharpness by Eduardo and Arshavin up front that prevented us going ahead early on. They also managed to edit the first half to make it look like Villa were more in the game than they were. I was pretty amazed though that they showed Young’s dive (Englishmen don’t do that) and his booking!

  43. Dupsffokcuf says:

    this time last season: P20, W10, D5, L5, GD10, pts35

    this season: P18, W12, D2, L4, GD27 pts 38.

    and people still whine and moan.

  44. DukeGoonem says:

    Spot on as usual Passenal. We were all over them like the preverbial cheap suit.

  45. Dupsffokcuf says:

    I think if Wenger had signed Milner a season or two ago he would be a better player than he is now. He is still young and learning like most of our squad.

  46. 1 loose cannon says:

    Villa contained us ? Honestly some pundits need a smack in the mouth.

    Arsenal A.Villa
    Possession 62.1% 37.9 %

    Shots on 9 2
    Corners 10 4
    Pass Success 81% 71%

  47. 1 loose cannon says:

    who gives a shit about Milner. A hard working player but once you cut out his crosses he just doesn’t do much very much like that diving thing Ashley Young they were snuffed out by Traore and Sagna one trick pony.

  48. Marc says:

    Muppet, great form earlier but Heskey a great player? He is a disgrace to football and the fact that England actually pick him for the national squad means England should be banned from all International tournaments for 20 years.

  49. Marc says:

    1 loose cannon: I can live with being contained if we win 3 – 0 every week.

  50. shotta-gunna says:

    Quotes of the Day:

    Kitchen Sink at 10:47 – “Wenger should buckle up and go for James Milner and Heskey in January.”

    Dupsffokcuf at 10:54 pm – “If Wenger went for Heskey I think he would be buckled up.”

    Ha, Ha, Hah!

  51. OneOfUs says:

    Milner has a had a great season so far. Thing is, he’s got a pretty easy job in that team. Villa are so one dimensional, and a guy like Milner never has to use his imagination much.

    He does the simple things well: Cross after cross for the giants in the box, and hitting those big diagonals out to Bog Whore or Ashley Young on the left. That’s about it. In a side like Arsenal he’d be lost.

    Villa play dull, metronomic football. And, funnily enough, they were at their worst in that second half because they knew they had to try something different. Fat chance for that bunch of robots!

    Of course, nothing they tried came off. And it was quite fitting that Milner gave the ball away to Traore for the second goal after a vain attempt at improvisation.

    AW never gets credit as a matchday tactician, but I think he saw Villa coming all the way from the West Midlands. I reckon it was no coincidence that we attacked down the right exclusively during the first half.

    This pinned Villa’s pacey players back, forced them to use all their energy defending and denied them any space to break into. They had nothing come the second 45.

    Oh and another thing – we were smart really smart with those niggly tactical fouls in the first half. We nipped a few counter attacks in the bud that way.

  52. Gooner4Life says:

    What a resounding victory. A good day to be a gooner

    Shotta Journos, Pundits and hacks are full of cr*p. They are quick to curry favour with the Man U Chelsea bandwagon. It makes them believe that English players and Man U Chelski are infinitely better than they really are glorifying their talent whilst denigrating that of the ‘soft’ foreigners. So such crap as Gerrard is the only person who shows heart at Liverpool… that Villa bullied Arsenal….that we are weak…doesnt surprise me any more. What more do we need to do.

    But we will have the last laugh because they forget that their ill concieved comments are immortalised in black and white for all to see when they get it wrong. After this game the pundits are going to have to come up with some better excuses because Arsenal are going to prove the critics wrong.COYG!

  53. Howard the Unwanted Fan says:

    We need a striker to replace RvP and we’re done. Eduardo is facing serious confidence problem, may be he needs help. He’s missing too many sitters:

    Spurs 3
    Sunderland 2
    Burnley 2
    Hull 2
    Villa 2

    We need his scoring boots back to put us on track.

    We also have to do anything to keep Fab4 from Barca even if we have to make him the highest earner in the EPL.

  54. lagooner says:

    Is this the Howard that most regulars tell to ‘fuck off’ on here?

    If so, fuck off, Howard.

  55. Howard the Unwanted Fan says:

    Fuck off lagooner. I probably spend more money on the club than you do, so just keep your big mouth shut.

  56. Muppet says:

    Fuck off Howard.

    Marc, I didn’t see Heskey was a great player. I think he is a good player, for what he offers, which is ball retention up front. Read the comment. lol.

    Fuck off Howard.

  57. Bernard says:

    Wow. Howard strikes back. F*ck off Howard.
    Happy new year to all the non-doomers and grateful thanks to YW for the best Arsenal blog.

  58. steww says:

    What kind of ‘fan’ keeps a chart with his own players’ mistakes on it? I don’t believe it’s the same Howard as he never ever reacted like that.
    But just in case.
    Fuck off Howard.

  59. Poliziano says:

    Tiger Woods and Thierry Henry have been named by one newspaper among the Villains of 2009. I find the reaction to Tiger Woods particularly surprising. I would have expected him to be one of the year’s heroes. He has, after all, f*cked as many women as possible, which is the pursuit officially recommended to all men. The Irish, so far as I can see, should be grateful to Henry. They were going out anyway. This way, at least they can pretend it should have been otherwise. In a few years, when memories have faded, perhaps someone will even believe them.

    Who are the true villains of the year?

    1) Clive Tyldesley
    – for falsely accusing of cheating a player who has just returned from a career-threatening injury.

    2) Anatole Kuragin
    – for his disgraceful behaviour towards Natasha Rostov.

    3) Barack Obama

    4) Michelle Platini

    5) Geoff and Pedro

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