Writer: Nick Simmonett
Date:Thursday November 29 2007
Arsenal will be looking to bounce back from their first defeat in an astonishing 28 games when they visit the midlands on Saturday.
Arsenal's unbeaten run, spanning back to last season, came to an end on Tuesday when Sevilla beat an under-strength Arsenal side 3-1 in Sevilla.
Obviously, a 3-1 defeat isn't the best way to warm up for the start of an important month, but a 4-0 away win is. That's what Villa managed when they visited Blackburn on Wednesday.
In fact, Villa have won five of their last seven games. Not the best time to be playing them, I'm sure you'll agree.
Martin O'Neil's side have steadily been climbing up the table for some time now, and although it has gone largley un-noticed, they look like contending for a European place in the Premiership this season.
That said, Arsenal are sitting nicely at the top of the Premiership, three points ahead of second placed United with a game in hand.
It's vital for Arsene Wenger's men to get a win over Villa for a few reasons. The first and most important is to bounce back from that defeat, and to show the character that Arsene Wenger has spoken of this season. The second is that Manchester United face Fulham at home on Monday, and they are almost definantly going to win. Third of all, a loss would see Villa move to within three points of Arsenal...
Aston Villa striker Ashley Young says his side can't wait to face Arsenal after two fantastic results agaisnt 'Boro and Blackburn: 'We've got a 3-0 win and a 4-0 win so things are looking good going into Saturday's game. Everybody is looking forward to that game.
'It promises to be a cracker in front of another sell-out crowd.
We just have to keep doing what we have been doing in recent weeks and hopefully we can celebrate another three points.
'They are at the top of the table and are quite obviously one of the best, if not the best, team in the league.
'It is another level up but as we showed against Chelsea we can win against these sides if we play our game.
We are looking forward to it. It promises to be another great night.'
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger spoke of Arsenal's injury problems going into December: 'I don’t know how long it will be for Cesc.
'We hope it will be very, very, very short maybe he’ll even be OK for Saturday. But the medical staff are not optimistic about that.
The worst case for him realistically is 10 days.
'We have a slight chance to get Gael Clichy and Alexander Hleb back. Mathieu Flamini will be available. Of course Van Persie is still out.'
Villa will have a full squad to choose from at the weekend. Anyone remeber when I last said that about Arsenal?
Agbonlahor has been in fine form this season. He's scoring goals, creating goals and being an all round pain in the arse for defences all over the country. He's fast, strong, direct and full of energy. He'll be a threat from the first minute to the last.
It's a good job Arsenal have one of the best physio teams in the country, because the injury list is growing by the day.
Cesc Fabregas is out for around 10 days with a thigh strain, although in all honesty, I wouldn't be suprised if it was longer.
Robin Van Persie has suffered a set back and will be missing for most of December.
Gael Clichy, Alex Hleb and Abou Diaby are also all missing though injury.
On the plus side, Flamini will return after suffering a thigh injury.
The Dane has made steady progress this season, and had a fantastic game against Sevilla midweek. If his recent performances are anything to go by, he could just prove vital not only in this match, but throughout December.
I'd say he's now third in the pecking order at Arsenal, for now at least.
Chris Foy will referee this one.
I'll have to go with a home win. Arsenal will be under strength again with some key players missing. Although the return of Flamini and Gallas will be a massive boost, Villa's form has been outstanding. 2-1 Villa.
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Date:Thursday November 29 2007
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