Pre-Match Report

Aston Villa v Arsenal - Match Preview

Arsène Wenger


"It was a tough night and we have to swallow it. I believe we are much better than that and we have shown that since the start of the season. Let's go back to what we can do. Sometimes you can learn from a defeat and that's what we can show." - Arsene Wenger


It's not often that Arsenal come away from a game soundly beaten, but even the most ardent supporter would admit that the Gunners were second best in Dortmund on Tuesday night.

That's no disgrace - as Mikel Arteta pointed out, Real Madrid were "battered" by the German side last year - but if anything Wenger's team were flattered by the 2-0 scoreline.

"I think the players are naturally determined to bounce back. You always want to remind the players where we failed. We want to re-dress what wasn't done well. But we want to respond"

The struggles of Chelsea, Liverpool and, to a lesser degree, Manchester City, put Arsenal's result in perspective and there is plenty of time to atone for one bad day at the office.

But right now the Gunners must stop the wound suffered in midweek from seeping into their domestic affairs. Playing catch-up in Europe is one thing; allowing a sizeable gap to open up at the top of the Premier League is quite another.

Chelsea are currently six points ahead of seventh-place Arsenal and, more surprisingly, there is a four-point gap to Saturday's opponents, Aston Villa. But Wenger is confident that can be cut this weekend.

"I think the players are naturally determined to bounce back," he said. "You always want to remind the players where we failed. We want to re-dress what wasn't done well. But we want to respond.

"We had a disappointing performance more than a defeat [on Tuesday]. We came out of Saturday’s [draw against Manchester City] feeling that we had a very good performance and on Tuesday night we didn’t. So it’s important we come back.

"We have confidence in our strengths and we want to show that we can perform. It is always a test for us to go to Villa Park but we want to bounce back quickly and I'm sure we will."


Hector Bellerin was given a baptism of fire in Dortmund but he may drop to the bench this weekend with Calum Chambers fully recovered from tonsillitis.


Mathieu Flamini is also in contention after a dead leg ruled him out of the Champions League group opener, but Nacho Monreal's back problem persists and, although the Spaniard is only a short-term concern, Wenger admits "it's difficult to predict" when he'll be available.

With Mathieu Debuchy expected to be out from between six weeks to three months - depending on whether his ankle requires surgery - there remains an outside chance that Wenger could bring in a free agent to cover in defence.

"It depends on who is available and on the nature of the injuries of Debuchy and Monreal," said the manager.

"We have Chambers available again now and we have solutions but I don't rule it out completely as well, because if you have two or three bad long-term injuries, you always have to consider that.




Danny Welbeck in training

Danny Welbeck in training




"I spoke [on Thursday] with people from Schalke, who had all their defenders out and played with two central midfielders at the back - they drew 1-1 at Chelsea. Sometimes you have all the injuries in the same department."

Yaya Sanogo's hamstring problem will keep him out of action on Saturday so Danny Welbeck is almost certain to continue up front. He has an excellent record against Villa, scoring three in his last two starts, and Wenger says the England striker has adapted quickly.

"He is settling in very well," said Wenger. "He integrates into the team very well and very quickly. He shows a very interesting talent.

"He was a bit unlucky in the last two games, especially against Man City where he hit the post. I believe as well he had two or three very good chances in Dortmund. People will say he didn't score but on the night to create the chances he did was already fantastic."


Just six shots on goal, but three wins and 10 points. Villa are hardly the Premier League's great entertainers but they have been incredibly efficient so far, and capped a solid start with a 1-0 win at Liverpool last weekend.

"I feel basically they are very tight defensively," said Wenger. "They conceded only one goal since the start of the season and that's where they have improved a lot.

"Last year they conceded many goals and they now have a very hardworking midfield that protects them very well. They have [Tom] Cleverley who they just got on loan, they have Fabian Delph, Andreas Weimann, Kieran Richardson, and they work very hard in front of the defence."



And at the heart of that stingy back line is Philippe Senderos. Now 29, the Switzerland international has carved a cosmopolitan career for himself with spells at Milan and Valencia as well as Fulham and, of course, Arsenal.

Wenger brought Senderos to Arsenal as a teenager, picked him 122 times for the first team and is glad to see him thriving back in the Premier League.

"He came here at a very young age and he made a good career," said Wenger. "He had ups and downs because he had injuries but he's at a good age for a central defender at 29.

"He contributed a lot to [our Champions League run in 2005/06]. He went to the final in the Champions League and he had always the talent. He had a lot of injury problems and it's good he can show now how good he is."


It may only be mid-September but this could be a telling couple of days in the Premier League with unbeaten Villa hosting unbeaten Arsenal before pacesetters Chelsea visit champions Man City.

"It is a significant weekend, not a decisive one, but an important one," admitted Wenger.

"He was a bit unlucky in the last two games, especially against Man City where he hit the post"

Wenger on Danny Welbeck

"Everybody is still finding their rhythm and pace. It's a post-World Cup year and we are in September. That means all the teams in Europe struggle to find their pace at the moment. Chelsea had a perfect start but it looks to be very even again and a fierce battle maybe more than ever."

A trip to Chelsea looms large for Arsenal - as does next weekend's north London derby - and three points at Villa Park would set them up nicely for those two huge London derbies.

It would also banish the memories of Tuesday and allow them to capitalise on Sunday's clash at the Etihad, where at least one big title rival will drop points.

A resolute Villa side on their own patch is hardly the ideal follow-up to an arduous Champions League trip, but Arsenal are unbeaten in 15 visits to Villa Park and Wenger could ask Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Tomas Rosicky and Santi Cazorla to inject some much-needed spark.

"I believe that we were a bit jaded and were dominated physically in the battle [on Tuesday]," admitted Wenger. "That was for me the main problem because Dortmund posed us a big fight and on the night we were not quick enough, not sharp enough.

"Were we a bit jaded after the Manchester City game? Maybe. It looked a little bit like we didn't have the resources mentally."

With that in mind, we can expect to see a freshened Arsenal side on Saturday. And a fresher performance.




Chambo and Chambers... in contention to start

Chambo and Chambers




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