Welcome to Talking Heads.
Before and after every first-team fixture, our MatchDay Show guest and an Arsenal blogger will have their say on the game.
Arsenal took on Aston Villa in the Premier League on Saturday and our Talking Heads for this game were Stephen Hughes and Sian Ranscombe aka A Girl Who Loves The Gunners.
STEPHEN HUGHES, STUDIO GUEST
It wasn't the best game was it? I think the positives to come out of it were avoiding defeat considering we didn't play very well and lacked our usual fluency. That's a good sign when you're not at your best.
The defensive side of the game was another plus. I thought Kieran Gibbs made a difference, he played well and showed how important he is to the team at both ends of the pitch. He looked fit. Wojciech Szczesny looked solid in goal and pulled off a great save in the second half.
It was no real surprise to see some players rested. The boss knows what he's doing and he would have looked at the games coming up - there are lots of them including the trip to Everton in midweek. We have the Christmas period as well and that is always busy.
We’re in good form going into the game but Villa Park is a difficult place to go to. They haven’t had a great start and are fighting for their lives. All the expectation will be on Arsenal to win the game, so Aston Villa will have nothing to lose. I think it will be quite a tight game.
They’ve got a young side and an energetic manager who is well-liked and did ever so well at Norwich. They’ll be full of energy and up for the game. Aston Villa have been struggling lately and will be desperate for a win.
You go through ups and downs during a season, that’s only natural. The recent wins have given the players a bit more belief and lifted the mood around the whole club. I think a couple of weeks ago, we were having a tough time, a few of the fans weren’t happy and the team was struggling. It’s amazing how quickly things can turn around.
It’s important that the team seem to be sharing the goals out now. It’s only a week or 10 days ago that people were saying the team weren’t creating enough chances. All of a sudden, we’re scoring goals from all over the pitch.
Scoring lots of goals was something that this team always had in them, in my opinion. There’s lots of creativity there and it’s good for the squad that different names are getting on the scoresheet and you’re not relying too heavily on one player. Giroud has shown he can make and score goals and there are a lot of positives at the moment.
I think it will be a really tough game, but with the form Arsenal are in, I think we’ll win 3-1.
SIAN RANSCOMBE, A GIRL WHO LOVES THE GUNNERS
It was always going to be difficult to enjoy any kind of performance in weather as nasty as it was at Villa Park. It's no excuse but the conditions definitely affected both teams I think. The positives to be taken from it, if you're going to be quite generous, are that we looked largely solid defensively with Kieran Gibbs making a good return from injury, both Per Mertesacker and Olivier Giroud kept up their good form of late, we have three vital players fully rested for midweek against Everton, and it's a point on the road.
Everyone will have been expecting more though. I wasn't particularly impressed by Villa but they had their objectives and they achieved them. But for a few seconds in which Laurent Koscielny and Aaron Ramsey could have maybe kept their cool a little more, we could have come away with the full set of points. Szczesny was tested a few times but I didn't feel particularly worried about conceding at many points during the game. The result was hugely disappointing, but it was a poor match in general as much as anything else. Let's hope it can be rectified on Wednesday - Arsenal have four days to regroup.
After last weekend’s derby win, I was a little concerned we might return to the form of a couple of weeks ago against Montpellier but the performance on Wednesday night was certainly an encouraging sign that this team might have turned a corner. ‘Professional’ was the word most chose to describe the win that secured our qualification to the knockout stages, and that’s exactly what we needed. This weekend we need to keep that up. It’s a late kick-off, which always makes me a bit uneasy, but if we can survive Tottenham turning us around at kick-off, we can survive waiting that little bit longer to play tomorrow!
Olivier Giroud has really found his feet in recent weeks and hopefully the fact he didn’t quite play 90 minutes in spite of a man-of-the-match performance in midweek will mean he’s fresh for this one. Villa may be in the bottom three at the moment but Norwich hadn’t won until we played them away on a late kick-off so complacency could prove disastrous. It will be good to see Gibbs back, though Thomas Vermaelen has done well at left back over the past couple of matches. It will be interesting to see who starts, but the fact we have options is a great change from the injury worries we can often face on a Friday afternoon.
* The views expressed in Talking Heads do not necessarily reflect those of Arsenal Football Club or Arsenal Broadband Ltd
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