Villa v. Arsenal: ‘’It is a great opportunity to send a message to the rest of the Premier League.”

I’m actually just about burnt out on all the talk about this run of four games that Arsenal head into today. I just want the run to start because it will be the moment of truth for this Arsenal side, this season. Knocked out of the FA Cup by Stoke and the League Cup by Manchester City, we still have hopes for the Premier League and the Champions League. Do we have what it takes to win? We find out partially today.

It’s a good way to start, too. Villa away that is. In open play, Villa are a quality team who will try to get in behind Arsenal’s back line with probing runs down the wings and powerful center forwards winning headers. Our full backs will need to stay close to the likes of Milner and Young while Vermaelen will need to be ready for a bit of heading practice in the center and Gallas for some sprints against Agbonlahor.

On set pieces, Arsenal will need to be commanding in the box, Villa might be missing Carew (a big blow in this game) but Heskey will be a huge bother in there. Against Stoke, Arsenal looked to have ditched their zonal defense for a man-marking defense on set pieces. Other than the first goal which I put down to lack of focus, the Arsenal man-marking was very useful. Personally, I’d like to see more of it, it instills defensive responsibility in all the players.

All over the pitch expect to see Villa pressuring the Arsenal and trying to disrupt our flowing football. All teams do it, but what remains to be seen is how well Villa can. In the first half of the game at Emirates, they did a great job of pressuring us, but that’s because we were without Cesc. When he came on, the team was injected with quality and energy and the second half was dominated by us. I expect Cesc will be up for this game, he’ll see it as a real chance to put his mark on the League.

In the Arsenal attack, it’s been all hands on the pump as it were with goals coming in from all positions on the field. The match against Bolton saw Vermaelen get his first since October 4th and Arshavin get his first since December 13th Arsenal will need more of that given the absence of a commanding center forward.

Speaking of which, Bendtner is healthy and has been practicing with the team. Irregardless the scoreline I fully expect to see the big Dane brought on today. I doubt he’ll start but with Wenger you never know. Wouldn’t it be just like Wenger to start Bendtner but put him wide right and keep Arshavin as the lone figure up front?

It’s a good opportunity to score some goals as well. Villa’s defense has been a bit shaky lately, letting in 4 against Blackburn in the League cup and 2 against Brighton in the FA Cup. Moreover, Villa hasn’t managed a League win since Arsenal beat them 3-0 at the Emirates a few weeks back. Some will look to make excuses, “oh those are cup games” or “oh the weather, blah blah” but the point remains that Villa have suffered a blip lately and will be looking to this game to get their Champions League challenge back on track.

It won’t be a walk in Villa Park by any stretch, but I suspect that there’s points here for the taking.

Today’s referee is Lee Probert and the only thing I can say about him is that I searched the site and I haven’t ever said anything about him before. That’s the mark of a good ref in my book!

The match is being tape delayed here in the States by Setanta (a portend of things to come) and is not being shown until 2pm (PST). That means I’ll be on internet blackout from 11:30 on so don’t look for me on here until tomorrow by which time, Arsenal will be 3 points up and have signed Chris Smalling, right?

RIGHT!

Up the Arse!

Pre-Villa Presser; injury news, transfer news, and merry making at London Colney

It's not a workout, it's a torture device.

Injury News

The shocker of the day is that Nasri is available and has been in full training when he was just supposed to be out for two more weeks, at least. The early return of Nasri (and Ramsey the other day) makes me wonder if some of these “knocks” that the players are suffering aren’t just normal playing pains and they are just throwing a wobbler. A few days ago Wenger said he was going to investigate why so many players were getting injured and it further makes me wonder if the boss didn’t take a look at the injury sheet, then the players, and just went into the training lounge, turned off the television and told the boys that if their legs hurt then they have to get in and do that upper body cardio machine which is basically just a torture device. Or if their arms hurt he’s all “Oi, Theo, shoulder hurts? Fine, three hours of stationary bike — AND NO MORE PBS SPROUT ON THE TELLY.”

Bendtner and Sagna are also available for tomorrow. The squad is starting to look quite healthy indeed. TOUCH WOOD.

Wenger is being cautious with Song and is saying that he might not even be available for the game against United. I know a lot of you wanted to see him straight into the squad tomorrow, but that’s not realistic. It turns out that he has to fly from Angola to Cameroon, then to London, and he might not even get back to London until Thursday. Even further, le Boss said that Song looked tired during the Egypt match and so they will have to look at him when he gets back and see where he’s at for Sunday. Don’t be surprised if he’s not back until the Chelsea match on the 7th.

Transfer News

I told you so. Arsene publicly admitted that he has made a bid for Chris Smalling and it looks like Arsenal are still in the hunt despite a bigger bid by Man U. I have created a special post just for the Smalling to Arsenal news, go over there to shout encouragement to the boss. It was hugely disingenuous of the boss to then moments later

Wilshere is certainly going out on loan. Either to Burnley or somewhere else and the player will decide in the next 48 hours. Good luck little fella.

Wenger has also had to re-deny that Klaas jaaan Hunetlaaaar is coming into the club, saying “we are not after any striker at the moment.” Damn, there goes my wish that he swooped for Beckford and Moses.

The FA Cup

Wenger was also asked about why he disgraced England by only playing Cesc, Arshavin, Eduardo, and Ramsey despite the fact that he had 10 men injured. My response?

“Oh for f*cks sake, didn’t we kill this story?” Arsenal played the best team available against the Rory Delap Ball Wipers. End of.

On playing Villa

Arsenal fans are used to a confident Wenger and he did not disappoint. Pointing out that the win over Villa just a few weeks ago showed that Arsenal could beat them.

Of course, the word on the street is that was a home match and Villa are much tougher at Villa Park. Those street people might be surprised to see that in their last two home games Villa have conceded 6 goals, 2 of which were against Brighton. In fact, the Villains have played 5 of their last 6 games at home and have conceded an average of 1.6 goals per on their way to a 3-1-1 record. The record is fine, but the goals against have been quite worrying.

More on the Villa game tomorrow.

Favorite Moment

The press, as usual, were asking about Theo Walcott and as usual, they had their heads planted firmly up their asses.

Dipshit: You’re obviously playing Villa tomorrow (the last fact he’ll get right), they’ve got a lot of young English players, like Theo — James Milner, Ashley Young, Agbonlahor — players who’ve kind of taken their game on. Is tha… is that the challenge that Theo faces now, to show more maturity in his game?

Arsene Wenger: Well, I think Theo was born in 1989. So, he’s 21. How old is Milner? (Smiling)

Dipshit: He’s the same age I think…

Crowd: No.. he’s 24. (Wenger shakes his head and smiles)

AW: 24… Give him 3 more years and then you will see. That’s a massive difference between 20 and 24, that’s where you see the evolution of a player. People forget how young Theo is. I believe he has improved a lot but this season he was unlucky — he’s played 3 games this year! You cannot be at the top of your game as a striker with three games in six months, that doesn’t exist. He needs a bit of luck and not to be injured at the moment.

Besides the fact that the dipshit reporter doesn’t know basic facts, Wenger is absolutely right to protect Theo here. I would like to point out that pretty much everyone has been writing Theo off at this point and while I agree that he’s had a really poor run of two games, he’s out there playing hard and working hard and he’s got the basic building blocks to be a great player. He will add skills as he gets older, if he can keep himself healthy, and if Arshavin decides to pass him the ball next time he’s wide open in front of the goal. Give him a chance.

Also, he’s not going to the World Cup this year, so let’s just stop talking about that.

And Finally, Szczesny (bless you)

The BBC are doing a write-up of Sneezy and they asked Wenger’s opinion of the young goal keeper (currently on loan). Arsene said all the usual about how great he’s going to be and he’s huge and has sparrow-like reflexes, but my favorite was when he said “give him an English passport!”

Unfortunately, he can’t play for England since, at the age of just 19 he’s already played for the Polish national team.

That’s It

That’s pretty much it for today. I do want to mention that I’ve booked my flight and hotel room and I will be in London for both the Burnley match and the Porto match in March. If you’d like to contribute to the travel fund, buy a shirt. If you’ve already bought one, thanks! More on the trip as we get closer to the date. Have to run, I’ve got to get to work!

Wenger Confirms Smalling Bid

I told you that it looked like Wenger was in for Smalling (smug grin).

Despite the fact that it was reported on Goal.com when I watched Wenger’s press conference last week, he looked like a man who had something up his sleeve regarding reports that Arsenal had made a move for Chris Smalling. Sporting a Cheshire grin, last week he was pressed on the question of signing the young Englishman and would only reply that nothing is done “at the moment.”

Just today reports surfaced that Fulham accepted a Man U bid for the player but that terms have not been agreed between player and United. Wenger pounced on that in today’s presser:

It just looks like Manchester United offered more money than us but, as long as the player has not signed anywhere it is not the end of it.

When asked if Arsenal were out of the race and done bidding, the boss had these words of encouragment:

We will not come out on what we are doing exactly but as you say it has come out on television but that doesn’t mean first of all that it is true. I’m sorry for your channel (SkySports)! So, let’s see. If we have anything more to tell you, we’ll let you know.

It’s very rare for Arsene to admit that he’s after a player and his admission that Arsenal are still after the player is a sign that he’s determined to beat United to this one. Arsenal certainly have the money to bid on players and they have the pedigree of bringing youngsters in and getting them to the top, top level. Meanwhile United’s finances are looking very shaky indeed, with the club posting debts of $1,170,000,000.

Arsenal could prove the better of the two, having just won out on the Aaron Ramsey deal against United last and thus could signal a sea change in club power in the league.