Have you read the stat floating around that only Manchester United and Chelsea have won more games at the Emirates than Aston Villa? Well if you haven't then you can thank me later. It's quite an odd one really given the relative gulf between the two sides over the years but there you have it.
Arsenal are not the only Champions League regular to fall on the Villa sword of late. Chelsea and Liverpool have taken sucker punches to the chops in recent seasons. You'd have to think that is largely down to the type of personnel the Midlands side have in their ranks. Gabriel Agbonlahor, Christian Benteke and Andreas Weimann are all good players on the counter attack and I can think of more than a couple successful Villa counters on us over the years. So with that in mind, we are going to have to be good whenever we lose the ball. The likes of Coquelin and Ramsey who I both expect to start will have to be switched on, especially the latter who does like a stroll towards the opposition penalty area. I mean who can blame him, it's not as if he hasn't had plenty of success doing so but he needs to be focused on going the other way. Let's not forget that he is bloody good at winning the ball when he wants to be.
Another stat doing the round is that Aston Villa have not scored a league goal since 1978 or something, yet they are not in the relegation zone. I'm not sure if I should be impressed by that or not. But you know when you highlight stats like that then they get turned on their head in the upcoming game. Or is that nervy pre match fan talk?
Villa do have some returning players as well as new recruit Scott Sinclair so they should be strong going forward than they have been of late.
Enough about them though, we may well have a few players that could trouble them. But Arsene will have had to do some thinking along the way. Alexis Sanchez is unlikely to be risked due to a hamstring injury. Also Oxlade-Chamberlain is out with a knee problem. This along with Danny Welbeck being still out for another week at least.
This means that Arsenal are without all of the outlets that we have had to rely upon during Walcott's injury this season. So it could well mean that the two players who came in at Brighton to get some football under their belts may be asked to start back to back games.
I'm not sure why this unsettles me a little. Perhaps it is because those two are probably not in the swing of things just yet unlike Alexis for example but maybe the cup game and training sessions will have sharpened them up sufficiently and I am worrying for nothing as I tend to do.
Without the individual brilliance of Alexis, we are going to have to rely on team work solely if we are to get the points. With Alexis in the side we are able to keep solid and allow him to skip past players and make that important contribution, today may well be different. Luckily the team are at a higher level collectively than they were earlier on in the season where we often looked disjointed. Hopefully Santi's rest will have allowed him the chance to continue at the level he was at and he can continue to tear it up rather than the break in his performances proving to be an obstacle.
Tomas Rosicky was by far the best player on the pitch against Brighton and in any sane world should start this lunch time but I just don't see how he gets in. Even more so given the fact that we have only Theo Walcott as wide attacking outlets. Santi Cazorla obviously comes back in and I suspect that a fit Mesut Özil with a chance of getting back in will do just that. Arsene doesn't tend to use Rosicky as a number 8 so it could be back to the bench for our bouncy haired Czech maestro which would be a massive shame.
Earlier on in the season Arsene swicthed back to the 4-2-3-1 for Villa Park due to the opposition and that worked a treat. It was one of our few good team performances in the early months of the season. I don't suppose that will happen again this afternoon.
Mean Lean's Predicted Line Up:
Other selection choices include Ospina vs Szczesny, Monreal vs Gibbs and Bellerin vs Chambers. All would have reason to start so that should be a good thing for the manager.
Arsene made it clear that he wanted the team to keep up the intensity and commitment so lets hope the players have listened. With 7 days in between games these days there is no reason why we shouldn't be at it today.
Oh, I almost forgot the new boy Gabriel who is more than likely going to start on the bench so he can get a good look at the English game from close quarters. After some more training sessions alongside Per and Lauent as well as flipping out the English dictionary a few more times, he will then be ready for a start, before that would be a risk more than likely. I also doubt we will get a chance to bring him on as a late sub, that does not usually happen for a centre back. I guess if we are cruising by 4 goals with 20 minutes to go (we wish) but unlikely if the scoreline is close.
Anyway post match stuff later, so check back for that.
Enjoy the game and fingers crossed for three points to keep up with all those who won around us this weekend.