Mondays can be a difficult time as you struggle to get over the weekend’s antics and prepare yourself for another long week at work, so what better way to cheer yourself up than a trip to Villa Park to watch your beloved side embark on another fun-filled ninety minutes? The Monday night football comes from Birmingham this week as Paul Lambert leads his claret and blue troops into battle against the side that they beat on the opening day, Arsenal.
The opening day win at The Emirates is now a distant memory. The optimism, anticipation and expectancy after that win have all but faded away and the chances of repeating that 3-1 scoreline are slim at best. After trailing early on, the Villans showed that they were no pushovers and produced some wonderful football which, with the help from a Christian Benteke brace and an Antonio Luna goal on his debut, ensured the points would be travelling back to B6 and left us second in the table. Top four was looking like a real possibility at that time… I joke.
However, fast forward nineteen games and Paul Lambert’s side has only amassed a further twenty points and currently find themselves in eleventh place. It’s not a bad position to be in the league although bottom of the league Crystal Palace are only six points adrift of Villa so the need to pick up points is becoming more urgent by the day. So, with indifferent form in the league, Villa fans are also having to cope with having the title of the team with the worst home record in the football league and they haven’t enjoyed a victory on home turf since November 9th when Cardiff were beaten 2-0, as even Sheffield United emerged victorious in the F.A. Cup in recent weeks.
As a team, things aren’t going too well for Lambert’s Lions at the moment and it doesn’t get much better where individual performances are concerned. A prime example being that Christian Benteke is currently going through the worst goal drought in his short career – although he did look like he could be close to getting back on the goal trail with an encouraging display against Sunderland on New Year’s Day. If the Villans are to steer well clear of the drop zone then the return to form of the Belgian is of paramount importance.
The opposition tonight comes from North London and if victorious Arsenal will return to the top of the table, an added incentive to play to win. Another reason for victory tonight would be revenge due to the fact that after the reverse fixture back in August, the Gunners were in disarray and a chorus of boos greeted the full time whistle, prompting Arsene Wenger to open his cheque book and bring in multi-million pound man Mesut Ozil. Since that day they have been arguably the best side in the country along with Manchester City and are yet to show any signs that will not be challenging for the title when May comes around.
Lowton Vlaar Clark Luna
Delph Westwood Bacuna
Agbonlahor Benteke Weimann
Paul Lambert has been hampered by injuries in recent weeks and the return of some key players will come as a welcome boost for the Scotsman. Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ron Vlaar are in line to make a return to the squad after overcoming various injuries whilst Nathan Baker will undergo a late fitness test to determine whether or not he could be in line for a recall.
With Libor Kozak on the long term injury list with a broken leg, there will be a chance for Nicklas Helenius to continue where he left off against Sheffield United if he is called upon from the substitutes’ bench. Joe Bennett is back in training after a lengthy spell on the sidelines. However, a photo posted on his Instagram page which showed a bag of ice on his knee could see the game against the Gunners come top soon for the former Middlesbrough man.
Arsenal expect to have forward Olivier Giroud back from injury and illness while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is fit again following a serious knee injury; whether Wenger throws ‘the Ox’ in from the start or decides to ease him in from the bench is unknown. Thomas Vermaelen (knee) is a doubt and Theo Walcott has been ruled out for the rest of the season.
Venue: Villa Park
Kick off: 8:00pm
Referee: Neil Swarbrick
Last meeting: Aston Villa 0-0 Arsenal
Tickets: Tickets are still available for the match and an attendance of around 36,500 is expected at the present time.
Aston Villa 0-3 Arsenal – @MrOMeara
Aston Villa 1-1 Arsenal – Mark Lawrenson
Aston Villa 1-3 Arsenal – Paul Merson