Aston Villa Preview: Playtime’s Over, the Business Begins Now
Arsenal has enjoyed a satisfactory preseason campaign and it all boils down to a good performance against Aston Villa today, or the fans are going to go bonkers on the club’s inability to spend money to get the decent quality signings that have been expected. The manager has stated that he’s not reluctant to spend but he will only remove the dust in Arsenal’s cheque book when he finds that top. top quality player.
This summer has seen many transfer targets slip away and it seems as if the want-away Luiz Gustavo would join the list of players that the Gunners let off their grasp as he’s closing in on a move to VFL Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga. Arsenal has been very ruthless in clearing the decks as so many deadwood players have found new employers, leaving the squad thin-bare and out of depth. Injuries to players in strategic positions would leave the Gunners in a precarious situation and one can only wonder if this crop of players can be relied upon to stay fit for the entire campaign.
Speaking of injuries, Arsenal’s charismatic vice-captain and inspiration in the middle of the park, Mikel Arteta, is the latest player to join the injury list, as he has been sidelined for six weeks with a thigh injury. He now joins other absentees like Abou Diaby (knee), Thomas Vermaelen (back), Nacho Monreal (back), Ryo Miyaichi (rib) and Bacary Sagna (ankle – doubtful). On the opposing side, Aston Villa’s Chris Herd is nursing a calf injury while Sylla is out with an ankle injury.
Arsenal’s record at home in the opening day of the season has been very impressive and you have to go back to 20 years ago since the Gunners last lost a game at home on the opening day. The club’s form in the tail end of the Premier League last season was very encouraging, as that late surge ensured Champions League football and took Arsenal took 32 points from club’s in the bottom half of the table – only Manchester United fared better with 36 points.
Like Arsenal, Aston Villa also had a late surge last season that helped them avoid relegation, as they amassed five wins, two draws and three defeats in their last 10 Premier League games that helped them secure a 16th place finish. However, they were very porous at the back, shipping in a record 69 goals, their worst defensive record since the 1986/87 season.
A man to watch for the visiting team will be their hitman, Christian Benteke, that took the Premier League by storm last season. He was directed involved in 49 percent of Aston Villa’s goals last season, which was a Premier League record for any player in the top flight last season. After a rather tumultuous summer where it was believed that he submitted a transfer request, he turned the tables to sign a new contract and he has scored seven goals in five preseason games he played.
He scored 19 goals for the club last season, and no other player in the team reached double figures. It was a different at the Emirates as Theo Walcott (21), Olivier Giroud (17), Lukas Podolski (16) and Santi Cazorla (12) all reached double figures.
To team news, Arsene Wenger tried his Polish goalkeepers in the course of the season but I believe that he would opt for the younger goalie, Wojciech Szczesny, ahead of Lukasz Fabianski. In defense, Bacary Sagna’s ankle injury would mean that he has a slight chance of featuring today but his services will be needed in midweek when the Gunners travel to Turkey to take on Fenerbahce. The Gunners are also light in center half but with Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker fit, I expect both players to start the game.
It’s also worth noting that with Vermaelen and Arteta injured, we would have expected Jack Wilshere to wear the armband but Arsene Wenger has opted to give the temporary captaincy to the Big F*ckin’ Giant / German, and he has spoken about his delight in wearing the band, albeit on a temporary basis. With Andre Santos gone and Monreal still out injured, Kieran Gibbs will have no issues manning the left back position.
In midfield, Arteta’s injury has made things rather untenable but with no Luiz Gustavo coming anytime soon, Aaron Ramsey would be in need of a partner, so I’m tipping Jack Wilshere to play alongside the Welsh man-machine in the double pivot midfield role. While many fans would be expecting Santi Cazorla to play as the creative hub of the team, I see the manager drifting him to the left to accommodate Little Mozart, Tomas Rosicky, to orchestrate the midfield.
In attack, Santi Cazorla would play on the left in Lukas Podolski’s stead and Theo Walcott will be flanked on the right hand side, brimming in confidence from his lovely strike against Scotland in midweek. I expect Arsenal’s alpha-dog in attack, Olivier Giroud, to spearhead the forward line and with no Stevan Jovetic, Gonzalo Higuain and Luis Suarez coming in, a lot will be expected of the Frenchman, but his preseason performances have shown that he can deliver.
I expect a lineup like this…
Arsenal has to begin their Premier League campaign on a high and a victory would go a long way in solidifying on the foundations of last season. A draw or an unexpected loss would come with its own fair share of backlash from the fan which could dent the confidence of the players ahead of the all-important clash against Fenerbahce in midweek.
Here’s to a great game of football and three valuable points.
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