When the boos rained down the Emirates Stadium August 17th, quite possibly the first time a major fan base had resigned its title hopes before the last day of summer, nobody had this in mind. Arsenal players and supporters were reeling from an opening day 3-1 loss to Aston Villa, with Arsene Wenger’s job in question and the Gunner’s season in serious doubt.
The criticism was rampant: Why hasn’t such a big club spent any money over the transfer window? Can this team even qualify for Champions League football? Is Wojciech Szczęsny the right keeper for this squad?
Flash forward to the present day, and a win Monday night over Villa would put Arsenal back atop the Barclays Premier League table. The purchase of Mesut Ozil in the dying embers of the window, as well as the team’s scintillating play have answers doubts about the North London team.
All eyes will be on the Gunners, who saw Manchester City and Chelsea win over the weekend. Such are the pressures of a title race: matching your competitors.
Wenger has been handed some positive injury news in the wake of Theo Walcott’s devastating injury. Olivier Giroud and Ozil have been declared match fit, while Aaron Ramsey and Kieran Gibbs may even be able to suit up, facing fitness tests before the game. Even Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will return to the bench.
This will be Arsenal’s first game after Walcott’s season ending ACL tear, and it will be interesting to see who can fill his void. His speed and technical quality were uplifting were Arsenal, and there simply are no other players on the roster who match his abilities. The eleven on the pitch will face other ways to create opportunities in front of goal, although they do not lack the quality to do so.
-Arsenal haven’t lost at Villa Park in the league since 1998
-Aston Villa defenders Ron Vlaar and Nathan Baker will face fitness tests before the match
– Villa striker Christian Benteke has now gone 785 Premier League minutes without scoring