ASTON VILLA 3-2 Brighton & Hove Albion (FA Cup 4th Round)
It was a night for the kids as Albrighton, Delph & Delfouneso stole the show. Delfouneso scored in the 5th minute from an Albrighton wiggled his way past the defence to give the Fonz a gift wrapped chance only to be subbed shortly after due to picking up a knock. Brighton made a match of it by equalizing late in the first half. But 2 second half goals from Ashley Young & Fabian Delph’s first Villa goal effectively put the tie to bed before Forster added Brighton’s second in stoppage time to improve the score line and give their brilliant travelling support something to cheer about.
Stoke City 3-1 ARSENAL
After undoing the Arsenal defence in just the second minute with a Rory Delap throw, Ricardo Fuller scored his first to put Arsenal on the back foot. Denilson equalized late in the first half but in the final 20 minutes Stoke really made the most of their dominance and scored two late goals through Fuller & Whitehead to deservedly win the tie against a largely second string Arsenal team containing the returning Sol Campbell – HAHA – Sorry I had to.
Even with a few injuries to the side, the Villa starting line up is still all too predictable which I sense is becoming the biggest problem for Martin O’Neill.
With Stephen Warnock out, Luke Young should switch flanks to take up the left fullback position with Carlos Cuellar taking over at right back allowing Dunne & Collins to make up the central pairing.
The injured Carew means that Agbonlahor & Heskey will certainly be given the starting positions even though the latter has only just overcome a knock himself and Delfouneseo further impressing.
Defence: L. Young, Dunne, Collins, Cuellar
Midfield: A. Young, Petrov, Milner, Downing
Up Front: Agbonlahor, Heskey
Arsenal too, have a couple of injury worries but will be boosted by the return of Bendtner. Although still not fit to start he will take his place on the bench allowing Eduardo & Arsharvin to take the attacking responsibility.
Wenger should line his team up in a 4-5-1 / 4-4-1-1 with Eduardo playing just in front of the midfield with Arsharvin up front. Or even vice versa.
Defence: Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Clichy
Midfield: Fabregas, Rosicky, Denilson, Walcott, Eduardo
Up Front: Arsharvin
Van Persie (Knee)
Suspensions & Unavailable Players
Eboue (Africa Cup Of Nations)
Song (Africa Cup Of Nations)
James Milner: I know, I know. I always seem to picking Milner but the guy is just THAT good. If Villa are to have a chance tonight then Milner will have to produce some magic (that we all know he’s capable of) in a packed Arsenal midfield. His 300th club appearance is all set against the perfect opposition for him to show off his own magic and flair.
Francesc Fabregas: Has to be really after he put on a master show in the reverse fixture just a month ago. Their top goal scorer and assist leader. A one man team? Ok, not so much but he is undoubtedly their best.
The league’s best defence will come up against the league’s best attack in tonight’s huge encounter.
Villa haven’t beaten Arsenal at Villa Park in their last 10 attempts which unfortunately is a record that I fear will continue.
As Arsenal enter a fixture list from hell with their next games against Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool & Porto, I’m sure that majority of Gunners fans will see this as the easiest of the 5 (with perhaps the exception of a laughable Liverpool). They will be looking to pick up maximum points to get some momentum going for the coming games.
Wenger will almost definitely stick 5 in the middle with Eduardo or Arsharvin playing just in front of a four to pack out the midfield and stem the creativity of James Milner. With a lack of striking options due to some long-term injuries you’d think Wenger would have been busy in the transfer market. But when you have the class and versatility of Arsharvin, who needs to?
Villa will play the same line up that we’ve become accustomed to. I’m not moaning about it as I think it’s a brilliant line up, but it’s becoming apparent VERY quickly that the way to stop Villa and the interchanging wingers is to pack out the midfield.
Arsenal are always going to play 5 across the middle anyway and with no NRC due to injury I fear that they will eventually run us over in the middle and win the game through a quick piece of passing play after isolating our own strikers.
Should Villa fail to score tonight then it will be the longest spell in which Aston Villa have failed to score in the league under Martin O’Neill, and should Arsenal win, then that will take Arsene Wenger to 300 Premier League victories, a record bettered only by Sir Alex.
Prediction… Aston Villa 1-2 Arsenal