On the 17th of august 2013, Arsenal went into the first game of the season full of optimism. We had a super pre-season for all the right reasons. The tour of Asia was great, we just beat Manchester City in Finland and the only blip was maybe a not too good Emirates cup showing. Many of our rivals were very active in the transfer window while ours was characterized by near misses in the case of Higuian, Jovetic and the audacious 40million plus one pound bid for Suarez, however, we entered into that game full of confidence that we would claim all three points with the players we had. Arsenal took the lead and Aston Villa came back and won the game.
It was like the whole world was just waiting for Arsenal to lose in order to let hell loose on Wenger and his wards. It was terrible, there were calls for a total revamp of the team, many pundits claimed that we were in crisis, and there were even calls for the sack of Arsene.
Five months on, the story has changed, we are top of the league, flying high, suddenly people believe that we have strength in depth especially in midfield, we have the German footballer of the year in Ozil, the best defensive partnership in Mertesacker and Koscielny and not many fans would believe that we would have been top of the league entering into the new year.
Tomorrow we face Aston Villa, the team that caused that serious backlash back in August and for me it is an opportunity to celebrate a complete change of story, a superb turn around, a terrific change of fortunes, A GOONERIFIC TURNAROUND.
Aston villa has also had a turnaround of their own kind. Last season, they finished mid table after an early relegation scare and after the win over Arsenal, they were touted for great things this season but it has not been so for them. Their weapon of mass destruction, Benteke has been off form and is still in his goal drought, his back up, Kozak is out for the season and they were slowly swimming into the relegation troubled waters and have to start picking up wins.
Like the first day of this season, Villa would not lie down and get beaten, they would fight especially that they are at home and in need of the points. Here are some key battle areas:
CLARK OR VLAAR VERSUS GIROUD:
This would be very interesting, i used to know Clark as a defensive midfielder especially in his younger days, but Lambert has converted him to defender and he is slowly becoming into their mist consistent defender, he would however have a lot to do to combat Giroud especially in the air. I expect Giroud to come out tops on this. The French man should not be short on inspiration, he has had a very long rest and would have a lot to still prove with serious links between various strikers and the club.
Most of the time, Lambert goes with a flat midfield three, with Westwood just dropping into the pocket in front of the defence and Delph and El Ahmadi acting as the creative force. This would be another battle areaand one in which Arsenal must win. This is because, this is the pivot of the Villa team, the midfield holds the ball and spreads it most of the time to the wings, Villa hardly play down the middle but use the pace and trickery of Weimann and Agbonlahor to punish the opposition. They are also capable of shooting from long range so Arsenal must be very careful.
AGBONLAHOR- WEIMANN VERSUS MONREAL AND SAGNA.
This would be another determinant of this game, how Arsenal’s full backs cope with these two. Agbonlahor is more of a wing forward, very fast, trickish and has a good eye for goal; he is almost the Walcott version of that team. While Weimann is also fast, but technically very good and has a good shot. Sagna and Monreal (if Gibbs doesn’t start) have to be careful
BENTEKE VERSUS KOSCIELNY
Koscienly has had a superb season so far and the list of strikers he has silenced is increasing. He would have another chance to add another high profile name to his list. Benteke might be on a worrisome goal drought but that does not take away his qualities. We all know that one goal would bring life back into his legs. Laurent must be weary as I believe that Benteke is the closest to Drogba that we have at the moment.
This would be another interesting game but it should be a game that we must win. The hectic Champions League period of the season is coming and at this point, we should grab maximum points at any opportunity. #COYG
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