Happy Christmas, and on a footballing front it was a pretty good day all round yesterday. Chelsea stuttered to another draw, the spuds could only muster a draw away to Fulham and a very lucky one at that, the only bad result was the cheating scousers beating Wolves, even then they needed the help of a very soft red card before they were able to break down a very resolute Wolves side, and frankly who cares about Man City?
Again the emphasis shifts towards the Emirates. Team news wise it will be good to see the pacey Traore back at left back, while Cesc is not 100% due to a muscular problem. Villa have doubts about the gravity prone beast Emile Heskey, but other than that have been unchanged for the past three games so any major overhaul appears rather unlikely.
Villa are a well organised side who can defend resolutely, they also play some very incisive football on the counter attack aided by the pace of Young and Agbonlahor in particular. In fact I would go as far as to say that they are becoming a bit of a bogey side for us. This is probably because we have lost a bit of our ability to vary our game plan over the past few years, we seem a little bit vulnerable to sides that sit back and then sting in the break. In my humble opinion it would be wise to start very cautiously today, keep the ball, don't worry if we don't create much early doors, simply wait for Villa to come out of their shell and then play them at their own game.
I think the aerial power of Thomas Vermaelen will help in dealing with whoever plays as the target man for Villa. Gallas will have to be on form and keep an eye on the darting runs of Agbonlahor. Sagna will need to defend well, Young loves to cut inside from the left flank and cross with his right foot, I want to see Sagna force Young to use his left foot as this is the lesser threat.
Offensively we can potentially cut Villa to ribbons as I do not think they have the most mobile of back fours. They are organised, disciplined, strong and solid but they are not blessed with the most pace at the back. Hopefully Eduardo can continue to his return to form and cause a nuisance in the box, and he will need to be adequately supported by Arshavin, Nasri, Diaby and Cesc. We will need to see the movement from Diaby that he showed in the second half against Hull, we will need to see that quick direct one touch football. If we are too slow in our build up then Villa will simply gobble it up and get men behind the ball. So overall a patient approach and don't concede first, a lot easier said that done though. Come on you Gunners.