All nine of our matches in all competitions in December are televised. Madness. By January 1st, eighteen of the last twenty Arsenal matches will have been on TV. Give the people what they want, I guess.
So we’ve lost for the first time in 846 matches. At some point we were bound to play shit and not get away with it, and I’m happier that it came in a Champions League game in a group we’ve already qualified from, than in the league where we currently have the advantage over last season’s champions. The pressure would have been enormous if we were still unbeaten when we play Chelsea or Spurs in the league, it would have the potential to be an Old Trafford 2004-esque confidence shattering moment, so at least it’s out the way now. New record set, no massive damage done, let’s move on.
The next challenge is "high flying" Aston Villa. The corresponding fixture last season was mind-achingly boring, so I’m hoping for a bit more excitement this time round. In their last six games they’ve won four in a row and drawn two. They have a fairly solid home record, with five wins and two losses, to United and Liverpool, and find themselves sixth in the league.
Since Wenger took charge, we’ve beaten Villa twelve times, drawn seven times, and lost twice. The last loss came in December 98, with Dion Fucking Dublin getting the winner. At Villa Park under Wenger, we’ve won four times, drawn four times and lost twice.
van Persie and Diaby definitely miss this game. Robin has suffered a couple of setbacks now, so we don’t really know when we’ll see him back. Flim Flam should be fit enough to start, as should Clichy. Gallas and Adebayor will return to the starting line up too. Hleb will travel, and faces a late fitness test, so may still make the squad. He was given a 21 day return time frame about 10 days ago, so that’s pretty good going. Fabregas is definitely out, having failed his fitness test.
Wenger has plenty of decisions to make in this game. With Fabregas out, the team dynamic needs to change a little. If Hleb is fit enough to start, then having he and Rosicky in the side should hopefully give us enough going forward. If Hleb is fit and we go 4-4-2, then who plays in the centre, and upfront, could prove interesting. It’s two of Gilberto, Flamini, Diarra, Denilson in midfield, and two of Adebayor, Bendtner, Eduardo and Walcott upfront. He really could go for anything. We could go 4-5-1, Rosicky left, Walcott or Eboue right, Hleb in the middle ahead of Gilberto and Flamini, with Ade up top on his own. Infact I can see that happening. I would much rather see Walcott playing instead of Eboue, especially seeing as Eboue has started the last two.
Subs: Lehmann, Senderos, Denilson, Eboue, Bendtner.
Villa have no injuries. Not one. Amazing. Agbonlahor is fit enough to start. The only missing player is Nigel Reo-Coker, who is suspended.