11 December 2015

Are Campbell and Ramsey flashes in the pan, or can they ride the wave?

It would be hard but not impossible to find two clubs headed in more-opposite directions than Arsenal and Aston Villa. Arsenal are just two points off the unlikely pace set by Leicester and have advanced to the Champions League knockout stage, while Aston Villa seem to be doing their best impression of a League 1 squad. They've not had a whiff of a finish in the Prem's top half for going on five years and look quite happy to slump towards relegation with just six points from 15 matches.  In short, this is one that Arsenal simply has to win.

Coming on the heels of an inspiring effort in Greece but head of a bum-clenching clash against Man Cit next weekend, our squad faces a risk of emotional letdown, Having settled our Champions League affairs in such convincing fashion, we do have to guard against looking past Aston Villa in preparation for facing the Blues. It was only a few weeks ago that the Villans held the Blues to a scoreless tie, after all, and despite their record, they've not been woefully bad. It's up to us, then, to confirm their status as relegation fodder as early as possible.

The good news is that there are numerous takeaways from our win over Sunderland and Olympiakos. both matches saw Ramsey return to a central role, but they also saw the emergence of a more-confident, fluid, and decisive Campbell. I've called on Campbell a few times to deliver, but he hasn't answered that call...until doing so decisively against the Greeks. Giroud will have claimed most if not all of the credit (he did, after all, notch a hat-trick), but a key difference between the unimaginative side that drew at Carrow Road and the one that's scored six goals in two matches has been Ramsey and Campbell. Simply put, Ramsey looks more-confident and combative playing through the middle. by helpful contrast, Campbell has emerged as a more-than-serviceable replacement on the wing(s).

Since returning to the defensive midfield, Ramsey has found two assists and a goal. His only previous tally of the current campaign came as a rather pointless goal scored in an 0-3 win over Watford. With the pressure off, and with his restoration to a preferred role, Ramsey could be poised to remind us of the form that so enthralled us in 2013-14.

Taking his place, more or less, on the right wing, is the indefatigable Campbell, who has also chipped in with two assists and a goal in his last four outings. A few weeks ago, there were calls to loan or sell him as early as January. As it currently stands, Campbell is reprising the role played by Coquelin last season, that of the perpetual loanee who's come home to prove what he's worth. It's too early to anoint him as anything other than a decent backup, but there are flashes: the perfectly timed run to score against Sunderland. The Bergkamp-esque dance and delivery for Giroud against Olympiakos. The tireless tenacity.

Surrounding them, of course, is a side that should be more than up to the challenge of upending the Villans. After a ragged November, the squad is starting to gather strength ahead of the end-of-December melee.


LAST 3
Arsenal 4-0 Aston Villa (30.05.2015)
Arsenal 5-0 Aston Villa (01.02.2015)
Aston Villa 0-3 Arsenal (20.09.2014)

FACTFILE
The two clubs first clashed on 1 August 1904, a 3-1 win to Aston Villa.
Arsenal have not lost at Villa Park since 13 December 1998—sixteen matches.
Villa have conceded eight goals in their last three outings.

INJURIES
Welbeck, Coquelin, Alexis, Cazorla, Wilshere, and Rosický will all miss out.

POSSIBLE STARTING XI
Čech; Monreal, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Bellerín; Flamini, Ramsey; Campbell, Özil, Walcott; Giroud.

At a risk of sounding overly confident, this one should be over by halftime.

PREDICTION
Aston Villa 0-3 Arsenal