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This is OUR time.

On a weekend where we have to hew to our winning ways we play last among the top three, hosting Unai Emery’s Aston Villa Sunday in a late afternoon tilt. We can fully expect Liverpool to decimate Crystal Palace earlier on Sunday, and Al-Citeh to crush Luton on Saturday, leaving us in 3rd place at kickoff. Putting three points on the board is therefore essential, but with them having beaten us 1-0 at Villa Park in December, it is not a given. That loss started our last mini-slide of this season, the run of results that culminated with our January loss to Liverpool in the FA Cup: 7 played, 1 win, 2 draws, 4 losses. Fortunately, we had two weeks in Dubai after that…

Aston Villa

Unai is leading Villa in a battle for the 4th place Premier League trophy against the surging little club from Middlesex; even though they play Saturday against the Oilers-upon-Tyne, Villa stands to be in the same position coming into our game Sunday. A loss by the little chickens will only use their game in hand, they’d likely be in 4th on goal difference. Expect Emery to have impressed upon his squad the importance of not conceding early, of watching for the out ball on the break, and, perhaps, on a mid-block of a creative bent to confound our current ability to press and hold teams in their own half.

Villa is also in the last 16 of the Europa Conference League, having beaten Lille 2-1 at Villa Park on Thursday. The short turnaround time will challenge their fitness levels, not least because they have an extensive list of first-team absentees. Kamara, Mings, Buendia, and Ramsey are all out for the season; last year the latter three were nailed-on starters, and Kamara played consistent minutes. This year Mings and Buendia have played one game between them; Kamara and Ramsey have played more, but are now unavailable. Cash (hamstring) and Lenglet (knock) are questionable, but I’d be surprised if both were out.

While Emery can call on a relatively experienced team built this laste few months, his midfield is going to be further shorn of Luiz, as he is suspended for two games for amassing 10 yellow cards before Villa’s 32nd game. Watkins, Diaby, Bailey and Duran can be expected up front, McGinn will probably pair with Tielemans in a double-pivot, in front of Konsa and Digne on the corners on either side of Torres and Carlos. Ex-Arsenal keeper Martinez will get the nod in goal. Watkins is their obvious goal threat, as well as their primary source of assists; Diaby, Bailey, and McGinn round out that threat. Hopefully the absence of Luiz’s goals and assists will be telling.

In their last 6 league games Villa has won 2, lost 2, and drawn 2. Very middle-of-the-road. Under Emery they play a variety of formations, focusing on getting numbers around the ball and counterattacking quickly through their wings in front of a high defensive line. Their possession varies by opponent, ranging from 33% against Al-Citeh 70% against West Ham; they were slaughtered by City and drew the Hammers. They beat us in December on a fine goal from McGinn, but we were profligate against the high line they played, and VAR did us no favors.

The Arsenal

We come into the game having had a solid rest after Tuesday’s Champions eague draw against Bayern. While we still have Timber out with his long-term knee injury (hopefully coming to an end soon, in time for the final few games of the season), the only other possible issue is Gabriel, who seemed to be fine after Kane’s assault but might be carrying a knock that could keep him out of the starting lineup. Otherwise we’re healthy and can field a full team.

As has been plastered all over the news Arsenal are unbeaten in the league in 2024. In our last six we’ve won five and drawn last year’s champions, using a press that could crease linen and offensive maneuvers that leave opponents in the dark. This game shouldn’t be harder for us to play than Bayern or Al-Citeh, yet I fear we will let down our guard (despite Arteta’s focused training this week) and will find it tough going. We scored early against Bayern and we let it go to our heads. Are we tougher in the league than that, after such a draw in midweek? Can we maintain our composure, our press, and our lovely interplay after scoring an early goal, and force the Villans to try and play on the front foot? I do hope so.

After calls by some here that I was partaking of too much California green hospitality in choosing my team for the Brighton game, I’ll reach a little further than that in choosing this one. We lacked a modicum of control with Kiwior (who didn’t have as bad a game as all that) against Bayern, and suffered at the hands of a speedy winger, probably one of the best in the game. Jorginho didn’t have a particularly great game; and we were relatively sloppy at times with our passing and decision-making. I suggest we try something with Zinchenko that some have called for, but Arteta hasn’t seen fit to choose for our lineup:

White — Saliba — Gabriel — Tomiyasu
Rice — Mø — Zinchenko
Saka — Havertz — Jesús

Tomi and White give us offensive threat and solid defense (and I expect Gabriel to partner per usual with Saliba), while Zinchenko can give in to his natural roaming quality and shuttle between Rice and Mø. This will also give Rice a bit of a chance to sit back and breathe, and dictate the game in front of the back four. Martinelli coming on in the 70th minute against a tiring Villa defense has no little appeal, and Jesús’ play versus Bayern brought us back to level on the tie. If Zinny tires there’s Trossard to slot right in. Conventional? Not at all, but I think it has potential, especially given how we’ve been pressing through the midfield, pushing teams back and back and back…one of White or Tomi pushing up making three at the back with Rice means we can really dictate the pace and intensity of play, and have two maestros on the ball with Mø and Zinny. Go ahead, tear it apart 🙂

The Holics Pound

It’s a tough market. We are 2/7 to win outright, and you have to a score of Arsenal 3-1 Villa to break 10/1. Arsenal 3-2 Villa gets you 25/1, though if you think we’ll shut them out you can more than double your money from 4-0 to 5-0 with 14/1 becoming 29/1.

I think we’re in for a tougher game than the bookies figure, but we can certainly win this game. The pressure will likely be on us to keep pace with Liverpool and the Oilers, we’re facing a Villa team pushing hard for Champions League football next year, and there’s always the “Emery comes back to the Grove” factor. If you go to the game enjoy it thoroughly, be loud and proud and let our boys know you’re behind them 100%. It is THIS time of the season where the margins are so small that we fans have to push every ounce of energy towards our team, lifting them and electrifying them to help them over the line. We know you can do it! COYG!!!

43 Drinks to “This is OUR time.”

  1. 1
    ClockEndRider says:

    Great preview, Scruz – “ using a press that could crease linen” is a masterly metaphor!
    I quite like your idea of having Zinchenko as an actual midfielder, although I suspect it may be the more usual Jorginho/Partey. The only other doubt for me is whether Jesus is kept as sub with a view to starting in Munich on Wednesday. Apparently he has on-going knee issues which require management. Arteta’s selection for tomorrow may well tell us where his priorities lie in the same way that Klopp’s did on Thursday.
    Unfortunately I will not be able to attend tomorrow due to on-going Lurgi which I hope will clear up in time to sample Reinheitsgebot bier in Munich next week. It’s more of a pity though as I will not be able to give the odious Martinez a verbal volley from my usual position in the Northbank. My stand-in has agreed to take in the job manfully and I’m sure he will be backed up heartily by C100 senior and junior.

  2. 2
    Bathgooner says:

    That’s a most enjoyable and measured preview, scruz, with a realistic assessment of the threat Villa pose in the situation in which we and they find ourselves. You’ve clearly shaken off the judgement blurring substance that influenced your last team selection and come up with a very reasonable proposal. I really do not know why MA8 has not used Zinny in that position but hey ho, that’s what he gets the big bucks to decide. When Zinny reaches his brain fart zone, I would add Partey and swing Declan forward to left eight.

    It’s another must win. I have no idea what score to expect, just win, Gunners!

    I am hoping to find a sports bar in Bologna in which to join in with sending the positive vibes, baby.

  3. 3
    ClockEndRider says:

    Bath@2 – probably most likely in the Ghetto Ebraico – now a student area around the Due Torre.

  4. 4
    TTG says:

    It’s nice of Bath to undertake the preliminary admin in signing Joshua Zirkzee and sad to see CER laid low . Best wishes for a speedy recovery CER .
    A few GHF stalwarts will attend our favourite Ecuadorean eatery where I am now greeted like a long lost son. Sadly Scruz won’t be able to make it, his appearances in North London are the stuff of legend but thanks for a fine preview. Adam Clery’s brilliant analysis of the Bayern game showed what an impact Zinny had and how well Arteta is developing as a man to make in-game alterations .
    I think Villa are dangerous out wide with Bailey and Diaby and Tomi may well start. Gabriel mussed training yesterday and if he were unfit Kiwior might come in . I’d like to see ESR starting in Sunday to provide fresh legs and drive but suspect Jorginho or possibly Partey will partner Rice in midfield.
    We should be fresher than them and the result back last November was a travesty so we need to put them to the sword. I sense a 2-1 victory in front of a group of GHF’s finest fuelled by the largest Sunday roast in North London . COYG !

  5. 5
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks scruz, it’s a fine preview of another step. As you say it’s very unlikely Palace or Luton can do us any favours so we need to right the wrongs of our defeat at Villa Park.
    We should know all about their attack by now and I hope for a 3-0 win.
    I have no idea who Mikel will pick to be honest but agree with CER that we may find out a
    little about his priorities, though of course fitness might make the decisions for him – we are unlikely ever to know as I am pretty sure MA won’t be telling us. Just win.

  6. 6
    bt8 says:

    Cheers scruz and thanks for the excellent preview. Zinny as a real midfielder sounds brilliant to me, but just win is truly the order of the day. COYG!

  7. 7
    Countryman100 says:

    Chino Obi-Martin (Who is 15) has now scored 20 goals for the U18s tThis season after scoring 4 against West Ham today.

  8. 8
    Countryman100 says:

    Spurs getting a pasting by the Saudi boys, 3-0 after 50 minutes. A masterclass of centre forward play by Isak, a Mickey Mouse class of defending by the Spurs centre backs.

  9. 9
    bt8 says:

    Tottenham hopes are appropriately melting as they sport their melting chocolate away kit. As I write this (80 mins) it was only the post that saved them from conceding a fourth. LALATH

  10. 10
    TTG says:

    It was 5 goals by COM!

  11. 11
    North Bank Ned says:

    A comprehensive preview, Scruz, that strikes the right balance between optimism and caution. Emery has found his level at Villa and made them a handful, although one we should be able to handle. As others say, this will be a must-win, but then all our games are now.

    I doubt that Zinchenko will start in midfield. The point of playing an inverted left-back is to add one to the midfield to create an overload or to release one of the four in the midfield box to create an overload further forward. If Zinny starts in the midfield, you don’t get either.

    C100@7: Obi-Martin is talked of in the same breath as Nwaneri, Lewis-Skelly and Dowman as a future first-teamer. A long way to go, of course. At that age, Chalie Patino was playing in the same England U-16 side as Jude Bellingham and Jamal Musiala. Rhys Murphy, whose U-18s’ scoring record Obi-Martin has now equalled, spent most of his career in Divisions One and Two and now plays for Yeovil in the National League South. The future can be fickle. Having Jack Wilshere as the U-18s coach may help all four to have their development carefully managed.

    Get better soon, CER.

  12. 12
    BtM says:

    Excellent preview Scruz. I’m still ‘slightly miffed’ over Havertz’ disallowed equaliser at Villa Park. Villa have two more points than they should and Arsenal one less based on that game. I’m looking forward to seeing justice being enacted tomorrow shortly after enjoying lunch with Ecuador’s long lost son.

    I think Thomas Partey will start tomorrow. He’s had time to shake off the rust, and now back to full fitness, he’ll be just like the proverbial new signing.

    Luiz is always a danger man for them particularly at corners and consequently, I’m not overly disappointed that he won’t be appearing.

    Solid home win.

  13. 13
    Goonersince54 says:

    Excellent preview Scruz
    As for team selection,
    This game is far too important to make any changes from the team that started the game against Brighton, with the caveat of changes for injury niggles.
    So i will be very surprised if we see the likes of Tomi/Partey starting this one.
    They simply haven’t had enough minutes off the bench yet.
    We have very little turnaround time after Villa game, with Bayern 2nd leg next Wednesday, before Wolves on Saturday and then Chelsea the following Tuesday.
    So i would expect to see some rotation for Bayern, then full side for Wolves, with changes for the Chelsea game, prior to the NLD derby.
    Make no mistake, Villa is a massive game for both sides.
    With the result on Tyneside today, they have extra incentive to improve their chances of CL football next season.
    This will be a good test, with Emery and Martinez extra keen to be a substantial fly in the ointment to our Title hopes.

  14. 14
    Trev says:

    Thanks scruz for a fine preview.
    Your team is interesting and appears less influenced by recreational substances than last time out ! Zinchenko in midfield makes more sense to me than at full back without portfolio. However, I think Martinelli is more likely to start wide left as we come out to try to hit them hard and fast from the off. I would agree with Tomiyasu as left back as we will need a proper defender to deal with Bailey on that wing.

    At this stage any win will do but a confident performance and a 3-0 / 3-1 score line is well within our grasp.

  15. 15
    Doctor Faustus says:

    A perfectly balanced preview Scruz, your note of caution is well appreciated.

    Unai is a better manager than how we in the Arsenal universe see him, his longevity and success in multiple countries are a testament to that, and injuries notwithstanding Villa will be desperate to pull further forward in the hunt for CL spot.

    I like your idea of Tomi at LB and Zinchenko left sided 8, but that will not happen as Ned mentioned for the reason that it would nullify the benefit of playing Zinchenko as the optional extra midfielder from the LB.

    I feel Kai as left sided 8 and Jesus as center forward can be a very effective combination. But likely to be tried more away at Munich than today.

    Any win will do.

    Come on Arsenal!

  16. 16
    ClockEndRider says:

    Interestingly, Tuchel made 7 changes yesterday to the team that played at the Emirates the other day and still won. Must be nice to play in a farmers league.

  17. 17
    Ollie says:

    Cheers scruz! Any win with no injuries will do. Though I think a clean sheet would be helpful ahead of Wednesday. Sipping my coffee in the deaprture lounge.

  18. 18
    Ollie says:

    GWS CER.
    Also I think that Californian green is still strong. There’s only marginally more chance of Zinchenko starting in midfield as there was of Vieira starting the other day.

  19. 19
    Bathgooner says:

    Although every game is now crucial, I get the feeling that today’s and Wednesday’s may well determine our season. Nonetheless Mikel and the players must have no thoughts of Wednesday until, hopefully, they have summarily dispatched Villa.


  20. 20
    Uplympian says:

    Thanks for another fine preview Scruz. You haven’t made such a hash of team selection as your previous but I agree there’s zero chance of MA picking Zinny as a 6 or 8. Hopefully Tomi is fit and plays LB to counter the impressive Leon Bailey.
    Villa will be missing some players plus having played on thurs should give us the edge required. Their defence not the greatest right now so hopefully a revengeful 2-0 to the good guys.
    Get well soon CER.

  21. 21
    Las says:

    Cheers scruz, excellent preview. As all the Gents above I also don’t believe that Zinny will ever play as a dedicated midfielder for Arsenal.
    I think Arteta will start with strongest team to beat Villa. This is not a time to get laid.
    Emery and Villa will try hard to fustrate us if ever was a banana skin this game very much is.
    But Arteta knows.

  22. 22
    scruzgooner says:

    cheers, all. the only reason i think zin night out in such a position is for midfield control with quality without sacrificing our defense against their wing play. it is more of a thought exercise than an expectation. glad you liked the piece otherwise!

    i fear i am going to feel like i’m on the edge of a high cliff before every game until our twin fates are decided this season. we have to prove it every game, certainly today and wednesday, charles…though we are not backed away from the edge if we win both, much.


  23. 23
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Cheers Scruz.

    I don’t expect to see much rotation for the purpose of resting players for the rest of the season. If we won the Champs League, we’d still only have 11 games left to play. Unless we have injuries, I think we will see similar starting 11s, with one or two changes at most, picked from a core of about 13 players. And another 3 or 4 making regular substitute appearances.

    I can’t see Arteta fielding anything other than a full strength side today, or at Bayern, or at Wolves or for any of the rest of them.

    They’ll just have to suck it up and keep winning.

    2-0 Arsenal.


  24. 24
    ClockEndRider says:

    Down to us now……

  25. 25
    scruzgooner says:

    let’s GOOOOOOOOOO!!!

  26. 26
    bt8 says:

    Palace have done their part. Arsenal, over to you.

  27. 27
    bt8 says:

    We’ve got Super Mik Arteta, and a good thing we do.

  28. 28
    Sancho Panza says:

    Off to a quick start I hope.

  29. 29
    ClockEndRider says:

    Good start from the Gunners. Slow, slow, quick-quick, slow.

  30. 30
    Las says:

    Oh Jejus

  31. 31
    ClockEndRider says:

    Goal on the break is clearly what Villa are looking for.

  32. 32
    ClockEndRider says:

    The last 5 minutes have been odd. Being played at the pace of the last minutes of extra time in the cup final

  33. 33
    Las says:

    Crazy speed. 0-1 down or 3-1 up…. we need more focus

  34. 34
    Countryman100 says:

    I think this is new. Flying high above the North Bank.

  35. 35
    Depressedgooner says:

    I have worried about Zinchenko all season, I worried that the Bayern game could derail us, but mostly I’ve been worried about our attitude at certain games, 2024 had seen that attitude all but disappear but it was back today and it has cost us massively.

    Tactics were wrong, team selection was wrong, subs changed absolutely nothing and this could be another heart breaking blow, maybe a blow too far.

    No motivation should have been needed after the Pool lost but a first half of huff and puff was replaced by a second half of after you.

  36. 36
    Depressedgooner says:

    I almost forgot that Unai is a cheating four letter word, rested players against Man City which somehow is not against the rules but a full strength team against Arsenal, a truly bitter and pathetic little man.

  37. 37
    Sancho Panza says:

    If that’s not the motivation they need to put in a performance against Munich and Wolves I don’t know what is.

  38. 38
    TTG says:

    Massive disappointment. Somehow although there is all to play for that feels theoretical rather than actual . I thought we played well in the first half but Emery tightened their midfield and we looked like the team who played late on Thursday night .
    I encountered yet another idiot bemoaning Arteta’s inadequacy as a coach. He didn’t seem to pick up that Odegaard was struggling in the second half and felt we were ‘ bottling ‘ it again. But it’s certainly been a Carlsberg weekend for Citeh

  39. 39
    BtM says:

    Sufficient good chances to win it in the first half but we lacked a clinical finish. Second best and looking increasingly tired in the second half. Extremely disappointing to lose 6 points to a team that we shouldn’t have lost any to.

  40. 40
    Las says:

    I tend to agree with 35@DG. I don’t know why MA gave up the double pivot in the middle. With Rice&Jorghi we might look too defensive but with Rice&Partey and Zinny in the left should have been enough. Playimg Havertz and Jesus together was also unproven. Our play was unbalanced somehow. But shit happens. Win the next one.

  41. 41
    North Bank Ned says:

    Disappointing indeed. I didn’t see the game, so I will refrain from commenting on the performance for now. As well as going two points clear, City has chewed the goal difference difference down to five, so a good weekend for Pep. Still 18 points to play for, but we shall need every one of them now.

  42. 42
    North Bank Ned says:

    C100@34: That is a wonderful and richly deserved tribute to the Guv’nor.

  43. 43
    scruzgooner says: