After a very hectic Christmas period, Arsenal are back to one game a week at the moment until we play Coventry at home in the FA Cup. This will have allowed all of our players to recuperate and they should be very fresh. It’s easy to forget that teams like Aston Villa, without CL football, are used to a week’s rest between almost all of their Premier league games whilst the Arsenal players aren’t. This should give us a slight advantage just from a fitness point of view.
Aston Villa are struggling with their home form and have managed to win the majority of their points away from home. Their win at the Emirates sparked the infamous outrage amongst the fans at the lack of business up to that point and this game could be a reminder of how far we’ve come since that game. We have played some brilliant football as well as improving our ability to win games whilst not playing particularly well.
Without Walcott, we are going to have to revert back to our total possession game that saw us 5 points clear at the top of the league just before the gruelling December fixtures. I’m hopeful that we can revert back to that system effectively at Villa park. With Rosicky/Gnabry and Cazorla out wide and Özil in the middle, quick play between the lines should create numerous goal scoring chances for us.
Sagna – Mertesacker – Koscielny – Monreal
Arteta – Wilshere
Gnabry – Özil – Cazorla
We still have a couple of notable players to return before we can put out our near perfect side. Ramsey and Gibbs should be back for Fulham at home. I’ve opted for the Arteta – Wilshere central midfield simply because I can’t stand the partnership between Flamini and Arteta. One just shouts and waves his arms whilst the other takes far too much defensive responsibility and plays it safe. Neither complements each other at all. Wilshere has struggled this season for consistency but a responsible performance by him should see us do well both defensively and in attack.
I’ve opted to start Gnabry over Rosicky simply because he should be full of confidence and he offers us that pace whilst having generally better ball control and passing than Theo. Although Villa seem to be a bogey team of sorts (especially at the Emirates), I can’t see us not getting the win. We are too good and we absolutely must win this game to return to the top of the league. The game will end 1 – 3.