Villa preview: we must see a reaction

So, once more into the breach.

No time for feeling sorry for ourselves, it’s Villa today and a good chance to take three points. Blackburn was abominable, Bayern put us in our place, but there can be no excuses today. As we spoke about yesterday, all we’ve got left this season is the scrap for a top four finish. Today is the first 3 of the 36 points on offer and we need them, badly.

In terms of the team news Bacary Sagna is out with a knee injury so you assume Carl Jenkinson will fill in there. Nacho Monreal will come back into the side at left-back and I suspect it’ll be Per Mertesacker who gets the hook in the centre of the defence (assuming injury or niggle doesn’t rule either one of the other two out). I wrote yesterday about how I’d like to see Tomas Rosicky get a run of games, fitting him into the team is not that easy though.

It means somebody is sacrificed. The most obvious way to do it is either drop Cazorla or move him to the left hand side and leave Podolski on the bench (or start him down the middle). The thing is, when we need to win games we need our best goalscorers on the pitch as much as possible. This season that’s Giroud, Podolski and Walcott (with Cazorla not too far behind). It looked for a while as if the relationship between Podolski and Giroud was developing really nicely but the last time they started a game together was the 2-2 draw against Liverpool.

Between injury/rest/rotation, the understanding they were showing has been put on hold, which is a bit of a shame. That said, leaving one of them on the bench at least gives us an option should the game not go our way. It strikes me that starting Rosicky is a better option than hoping he’ll have an impact from the bench. Whatever happens, I think there needs to be some kind of re-jigging of the team, simply to do something different. Watching the exact same XI struggle the game way is not something to look forward to.

Arsene Wenger says:

Feeling sorry for ourselves will not change the situation. It’s just important we get another three points on Saturday. It is a game in the Premier League. We are on quite a good run and we should not forget that.

We know we are in a position where we cannot afford to drop points and we will go into the game with a huge desire to get out the disappointments that we had recently.

It’s telling that ‘quite a good run’ these days equates to just four games without defeat in the league, but it is a run of sorts and one we have to keep going. We’re in a position where we simply cannot underestimate any opponent. Villa’s season has been difficult, I guess you can say, but we know from the away game we played there late last year that they’re a team capable of frustrating us. Of course we had one of those nights up there, a game when we just failed to click and when chasing the game Arsene took off Giroud and put on Francis Coquelin.

More than anything this is a game in which we need to set the pace from the start. Not after a half-time rocket, not on 70 minutes when we’ve just conceded a goal from a cross which went between Monreal’s legs, clipped Koscielny’s knee and went in off Jenkinson’s balls, from the very first minute. By all means keep the ball but do more than that. Stretch the play, fizz those passes around rather than roll them gently, drive at the opposition, take a few risks here and there because otherwise it will fall into the same pattern as so many games this season. The players will know it, the crowd will know it, the manager will know it, and we’ll all feel like Bill Murray listening to I Got You Babe. And there’s no Ned Ryerson to punch.

This is a game we’re more than capable of winning with the players we’ve got. It’s a home game against the team sitting one point above the relegation zone. It might well be a case some people think it’s the perfect banana skin, but not so long ago this is the kind of game you would relish, knowing a good performance would likely bring three points. The players have to show a reaction to the last week, no two ways about it.

They talk of being hurt and wanting to do better, and that’s fine. But words are easy, actions speak louder. I expect a performance today, one that’s charged by the disappointment of the last week. No excuses, no hiding, just a team committed to winning a game and doing exactly that.

Come on you reds.

In other news, there isn’t much really. So check out the interview with Mikel Arteta, in which Andrew Allen asked the questions. And yes, there’s one about his hair (Arteta’s).

And remember, if you can’t see the game later, we’ll have complete live blog coverage later on for you. Check back later for a post with all the info or you can bookmark the default live blog page.

We’ve also set up a Twitter account @arseblog_live which will provide important updates like goals, cards, substitutions, half-time and full time scores. If you follow that and enable SMS notifications via Twitter, you can get those updates sent directly to your phone.

And if you fancy a flutter, Paddy Power will give you a £20 free bet if you sign up and bet £10. Simply click here to register.

Time for some breakfast, some walking of the dog, and then the football. Until later.


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