Pre-Match Report

Arsenal v Aston Villa - Match Preview

Emirates Stadium

“I would sum it up like this - I focus on the next game and forget what has happened before.

“We are here to win football games and, when we don’t do it, of course it’s a huge disappointment.

“We lost two home games. I don’t know how many times it’s happened in my 16 years but we have to get over that and focus on the next one.

“Feeling sorry for ourselves will not change the situation. It’s just important we get another three points on Saturday.”

Arsenal v Aston Villa

Podolski to score first @ 9/2


That was Arsène Wenger’s response when asked to summarise the past seven days.

Of course the defeats to Bayern and Blackburn have been serious setbacks but they have not actually dented Premier League form that was starting to show promise. Remember the backs-to-the-wall victory at Sunderland a fortnight ago? Well that made it 10 points from a possible 12.

Given that the Villa clash precedes games with fourth-place Tottenham and possibly Everton, in sixth, you might suggest it was a calmer occasion in which Arsenal can lick their wounds and return to form. Wenger dismissed the notion out of hand.

“There is no calm,” he said. “It is a game in the Premier League.

“We are on quite a good run and we should not forget that. [We must] take advantage of the fact that we are at home. 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.”

Those words were typical of the steely defiance shown by the manager at his pre-match press conference. Undeniably it has been a tough, tough week for anyone who bleeds red-and-white but Wenger was keen to place it in perspective.

"We are fighting for a Champions League place, not against relegation, and we have to take that in a positive way if we are to stay at the top."

Arsene Wenger

“I have enough experience in my job to know you have to deal with all kinds of situations,” he said. “This is one that is difficult to handle but we don't have to go too "over-disastrous" about it.

“We are fighting for a Champions League place, not against relegation, and we have to take that in a positive way if we are to stay at the top.

“For us the status of the club goes through the Champions League and we need some strength to get into that competition again. I think everyone realises that.

“I'm in a strong mood because, if I am not, I don't see how my team can be.”

The strength of Wenger’s squad is only affected by the loss of Bacary Sagna (knee) from Tuesday night and the ongoing absence of Kieran Gibbs (thigh). That is a pretty clean bill of health for this point of the season. Meanwhile Nacho Monreal returns after being cup-tied against Bayern.

Aston Villa have had a torrid season and they enter the final stages one place above the relegation zone. Like Arsenal, they would have been eyeing Wembley this weekend but their Capital One Cup campaign was curtailed by Bradford. Like Arsenal, they have enjoyed a small but significant upturn in form in the Premier League.

Villa beat West Ham a fortnight ago and, a week earlier, would have triumphed at Everton but for Marouane Fellaini’s last-minute equaliser.

"It will be a typical Premier League game today and we have to prepare ourselves for a fight."

Arsene Wenger

Christian Benteke bagged a brace at Goodison Park; part of a run of five games in which he has scored. The strong-running Belgian frontman has been the stand-out player at Villa Park this season as manager Paul Lambert, in his first campaign since moving from Norwich last summer, has tried to conjure up cohesion from a young squad.

“Benteke has fantastic presence,” admitted Wenger. “He’s a battler, physical and is good in the air. We’ve seen these qualities against us already this season and we’ll need to keep him quiet.”

History must also be muffled on Saturday. Only Chelsea have picked up more Premier League points at Emirates Stadium than Villa. They nearly grabbed a victory in the opening League game at the ground back in 2006 and their recent record is a creditable W2 D2 L2.

“It is always a battle against Villa,” said Wenger. “They have recently had some good results including a 3-3 draw at Everton.

“They know that they are fighting to avoid relegation. So it will be a typical Premier League game today and we have to prepare ourselves for a fight.

“Apart from Manchester United, it’s very open for all the other positions. It’s down to us to continue to be consistent like we have been. We have to focus on continuing to get points because we cannot drop any.


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“We know this is a hard time,” the manager concluded with circumspection, “I'm not saying it's easy. But it is also a time where I can use my experience and knowledge to ensure the squad stays together and fights together.

“I try to analyse objectively what's going on. I try to take a little distance from things that are said and analyse well things that happened and why we lost games and then make the right decisions. That's our job.”

And for all the press conferences, columns inches, tweets, blogs and opinion, it is profession that depends on winning games.

It is football’s solitary solution.

And Arsenal have another opportunity on Saturday.

Team news:

Arsenal: Sagna (knee), Gibbs (thigh)

Aston Villa: Herd (foot), Albrighton (foot), Gardner (knee), Dunne (groin).

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