For the first time since the thumping FA Cup final victory, Arsenal meet Aston Villa, this time at Villa Park in a Sunday afternoon kick-off. Aston Villa are now headed by former Gunner Remi Garde, who would definitely look forward to this fixture and defeat the club he once played for.
Arsenal, however, will be hoping to continue their good form coming at the back of a sensational European escape. Aston Villa were hardly a problem for Arsenal last season. 3 goals at Villa Park, 5 goals at Emirates and 4 goals at Wembley all without reply means that they were blown away by the Gunners wherever they met and simply couldn’t handle them. Things cannot be expected to pan out the same way time around.
A former Gunner has taken up the managerial post and one thing he’d love to do would be winning against his old club and of course, his former manager Arsene Wenger. Well, Garde himself is a manager now and faces Wenger speaks volumes of Wenger’s longevity as an Arsenal manager.
After their first victory in 4 Premier League matches, Arsenal added colour to what was a barren run which saw them dropping 7 valuable points. They have the slip-ups of their rivals to thank for having kept pace in the title race. It’s also become a characteristic of the Premier League, that anyone can beat anyone. It was quite clear from Bournemouth’s heroic victory at Chelsea last week.
So there’s no margin for error for any of the big clubs, as they are bound to be punished irrespective of the opposition. Arsenal should not get carried away by their historic win at Greece and should keep themselves grounded not losing focus in their Premier League campaign.
Now that Champions League resumes only in February, they can give their full concentration to the Premier League and of course, their title defence of FA Cup. They wouldn’t want to put up a title defence like that of Chelsea in Premier League.
Arsenal’s injury problems were given a boost after the news came out that Alexis Sanchez is due to return for the crucial clash against Manchester City, as reported by the Arsenal official website. With this and the returns of Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, their title challenge is moving on the right track.
Wenger finally has some options in attack having been deprived of choices in the past few weeks due to injuries to forwards and midfielders. Though important it is to win this match, it is also important that Wenger protects his key players for the clash at Emirates next Monday.
Until 3 weeks back, Arsenal were the team with the best away record. But that has now gone with a loss at Hawthorns and a draw at Carrow Road. So they can’t afford to take this one lightly, for a win will take them top at least till Monday night when Leicester host Chelsea. Bottom club Aston Villa are with just one win in their entire PL campaign, and a win in this fixture will be a big boost in their battle for survival.
Can Arsenal go to the top of the table? COYG!