22 February 2013

Arsenal vs. Aston Villa Preview

With yesterday's news that Sagna will be out for a few weeks with a knee injury, we go into Saturday's match against Aston Villa with a threadbare back line. Gibbs is still out, and Koscielny is nursing an injury of his own. We therefore will probably have to go with Monreal, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, and Jenkinson. Benteke, who stands 6'3" (1.9m), has scored 11 goals across 20 Prem games, including six goals in his last five. After that, though, there's a considerable drop-off. Out-of-favor Darren Bent has scored four in seven games, and Agbonlahor has scored three in thirteen games. Therefore, if we can keep a close eye on Benteke, we can go a long way towards holding their attack at bay. Starting Giroud up top so that he can drop down for corners might be a nice touch, as would playing Podolski, not so much for his height but for his finishing, his pace, and his connection with Giroud, which has deepened as the season progresses. In midfield, I agree with arseblog when he says that we should see Rosický start. Between he and Wilshere, we need some boys who can put Villa back on their heels, and Tomáš is just that kind of guy. We'll come back to that in a moment.

Truth be told, though, this is the kind of game that we should just win without dithering so much about who starts. I won't descend into the lower depths of our pathos this year, though. As rough as a week as it's been with two losses, we're still on a strong run in the Premier League. We've won seven of our last ten with two draws (Liverpool and Southampton) and one loss to Man City--a game in which Koscielny drew a red-card for showing too much affection to Dzeko in the 9th minute. In other words, despite the doom and gloom that we've bandied about, I expect a strong showing Saturday, not least because Aston Villa have struggled, but because we go into the last third of the season knowing that we have just one goal left to achieve. Speaking at the pre-game press conference, Wenger said, "we know we are in a position where we cannot afford to drop points" and "we have to prepare ourselves for a battle."  This is true--Villa is facing relegation, holding precariously to 17th and just a point above Reading. Despite this position, they have been tough on the road, with one win, three draws, and one loss (a 8-0 shellacking at Chelsea). They've come away with a draw at Merseyside and a win at Anfield, so our boys had better be alert.

Between Wilshere, Rosicky, and Podolski, I think they'll create the kind of urgency and determination to get us off to a strong start. As much as I'd like to see Walcott up top, I prefer Podolski's willingness to drop down to create attacks over Walcott's preference to look for the ball to come to him. Let's see the boys come out strong, focused, and, yeah, a little angry and put the Acorns on their collective duffs with a goal or two in the first 15 minutes. Instead of groveling and scrabbling for the crumbs that fall from the top of the table, it's high time we start shoving others out of our way and seizing what we want--not because "we're Arsenal" and we're "supposed" to be there as some kind of birthright, but because we're not going to let the likes of Spurs or anyone else beat us to it. I"m tired of the grim calculus of how many points are available and which games we  must/should/hope to win (but I'll continue to obsess, of course). It's time to rise up and start clobberin' those who stand in our way. If nothing else, we could all use a little catharsis, a little purging of the anger and frustration that have built up over the last week or so. Sorry, Aston Villa, but you're looking like the scapegoat of the moment.

Right. Let's do this.