In the end, they did it. After 38 games and a...
Arsenal v Aston Villa; Premier League Match Preview
Anyone taking an away trip to Villa Park should have their head examined. And anyone who jointly overlooks Villa based on their last two results should also have some time with a shrink scheduled. No trip to Villa Park is easy and as this season has shown (ask Norwich) anyone can be beaten.
As Arsene Wenger has challenged the team, they need to find their rythym early. Letting this fixture develop over time is only going cause uneeded consertnation. Villa have actually been good money in the first half of their recent matches. They went up 2-0 to United in the first half and looked good for it against City in the second half. The problems for Lambert’s young side is holding it together for a full 90 mins. They eventually fell 3-2 to United and 5-0 to City – all based on second half performances.
Why is this important? Well, Arsenal have been slow starters this season.Of 12 league matches they have only taken a lead into half-time on 3 occassions this season. On the positive, they’ve only been outscored once in the second half this season. Still, a slow start, giving Villa, a team with nothing to lose at this point an edge is a dangerous proposition, especially for an Arsenal squad still trying to find it’s feet after a run of poor form.
In the derby and the Champion’s League match, things certainly looked to be improving. And the emphatic nature of the derby win and its lasting affect can’t be overlooked. And while Arsenal certainly looked out of kilter in the first half of the Montpellier match, there was very little to be seen in the match that the result was really in doubt. Hopefully, this all points to an upward swing for the Gunners.
Seasons come with ebbs and flows. A team’s success is based on how it handles those down turns as well as the up turns. Everything has to be put into perspective. And while the run of poor form was discouraging, it had to be looked at in a fuller context of a season at whole. It’s why this blog and others never got too low or too high. But as we draw closer to January and when the table begins to really solidfy, we need to have more consistency of the positive kind than the negative kind. And with the big matches for the most part out of the way, its time Arsenal made the teams they should beat their whipping boys.
Arsenal for the most part are returning to health. Theo Walcott remains on the sidelines with a shoulder injury picked up against Spurs. Wenger has said that an Everton return is likely for Theo. Rosicky is back training and there are some rumours he could actually make the bench for this match. Gibbs was on the bench for Montpellier and likely kept out for this match. It would be a good match for him to come back into. I don’t fancy the head to head match up of Vermaelen and Agbonlahor on the wings. We really need pace for that battle. Gervinho is also back and could start but I think Wenger will opt for Oxlade-Chamberlain because of the Englishman’s consistent improvement, pace, and guile.
With the likelihood of Gibbs playing look for Vermaelen to revert back to the central defender position and Laurent Koscielny to rotate back to the bench. That presents Arsenal with its primary back four and starting keeper for the first time since Szczesny went off after the Southampton win. Hopefully, there is a foundation that can be established as this run in through the holiday fixture list begins.
A lot of pundits are calling this match “bankable” for Arsenal. On the surface it should be but the unpredictability of the Premier League means that no match should ever be considered bankable. It only is bankable if Arsenal go out and do their business and build off of the last few weeks.
How the Match Should Play Out:
Lambert will likely opt to use Christian Benteke up front. Villa will look to get the ball up to him in the air with hopes he can bring it down and bring in the midfield trio or get a chance himself. As Michael Cox of Zonal Marking opines, this will mean Per Mertesacker has to have another solid performance. If Mertesacker can negate Benteke’s influence on the game then the scoring threats for the Villans are mitigated. Arsenal will use, as they always do their midfield superiorty to apply pressure to an inexperienced (youthful) side – especially the DMs and back 4. The comebacks of United and the demolition by City were resultant by constant pressure on the back 4. Arsenal can do that in spades. Arsenal have been solid defensively on the road this season and continue to be one of the top teams in limiting a home sides chances. In other words Arsenal should control the ball, overall play and with their attackers getting into a run of good form, they should be able to gain the upper hand. Overall, look for a tight first half and Arsenal to complete the performance with a “professional” 2-0 win.
Players to Watch:
Arsenal: Woijech Szczesny. He’s back fully now and needs to take control of the defense like he did to take control of the number 1 spot coming into this season. With Mertesacker the vocal leader of the back 4 – look for Szczesny to add to that by taking control of the whole defensive effort. Now about those goal kicks.
Aston Villa: Christian Benteke. Made headlines last week when he declared that Arsenal were a team he would love to play for. That aside he has displaced Darren Bent as Paul Lambert’s choice up front.
Injuries and Suspensions:
Arsenal: Walcott (shoulder), Rosicky (calf), Fabianksi (ankle), Santos (abdomen), Diaby (thigh)
Aston Villa: Bennett (knee), Bent (ankle), N’Zogbia (knee), Herd (knee), Gardner (knee), Dunne (groin)
Arsenal: Giroud, 4, Cazorla 4, Podolski 4
Aston Villa: Weimann 2, Benteke 2, Bent 2
Arsenal: Walcott 4
Aston Villa: Benteke 2
Last Meeting (FA Cup):
Aston Villa: 0
Arsenal (away): 1.2
Aston Villa (home): 1.4
Arsenal (away): 0.8
Aston Villa: (home): 1.6
Aston Villa: LLWDL
Aston Villa: -12
Referee: Lee Mason (Matches 7 , R0 Y24)
US: Fox Soccer Channel 12:30 AM EST
UK: ESPN UK 17:30
Aston Villa: 0
The Final Word:
Arsenal today announced that have entered into a new agreement with Emirates for an improved shirt deal. The new deal carries the partnership through 2018 and is worth £150 million totally. That package puts it in the top tier of sponsorhip deals and gives the club an additional £30 million a year for use. In it’s statement the club let it be known that the deal was move forward to this year so that the funds would be made available immediately.
If true that £30 million plus the £70 million that is already in the transfer kitty (reportedly) could be used to not only sign premier talent but it could aid in accelerating the restructuring of the overall wage system at Arsenal. It does as Ivan Gazidis states makes the club less reliant on the stadium money and to an extent player sales to improve the financial health of the club.
In addition to this, the Emirates Stadium naming deal will stay in place through 2028. There was no real financial gain on this portion of the deal. The equity in the name is non-existant for Emirates as it already has that equity. Basically the 7-year extension equates to around £2 million of the overall £30 million the club will get annually from the airlines.
There are also rumblings that Adidas could wind up winning the kit making sweepstakes. When the commercial presser for today was announced, the speculation was that the new deal with Adidas would be announced. While it wasn’t Adidas is going full throttle to “own London” in terms of the football clubs. Arsenal and Fulham have been targetted for inclusion on the Adidas stable. They already have their deal with Chelsea. After not renegotiating with Liverpool, they have money to spend and want to get back to gaining ground they’ve lost from Nike.
Nike won’t let Arsenal go without a fight as they still view the London side as a jewel property – especially in light of their increased overseas profile. If Adidas can conclude the deal with Arsenal it could net another £23-£25 million per year.
Overall the Emirates deal and the new kit deal look to be bumper deals in terms of finances for the club. But it raises the question – will the club spend it. They said it’s available. The problem with that is, they’ve had the funds available to Wenger to use and they aren’t used. Ivan Gazidis continues to say that these new commercial deals will put the club in the same financial stratosphere as the big boys and will likely make it one of the top 5 clubs in the world. And while the first salvo – the Emirates deal is a shot in the right direction it will now be up to the club to wield that clout.
Until Tomorrow – Stay Goonerish!