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Arsenal vs. Aston Villa preview

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of the three photos of this play, this is the one where Alan Hutton gets closest to the ball
of the three photos of this play, this is the one where Alan Hutton gets closest to the ball

Arsenal vs. Aston Villa
Balon d'Pires
Kickoff: 11 AM ET
Emirates Stadium, North London, the red part
SB Nation for Villains: 7500 to Holte
TV: Fox Soccer

After what seemed an eons-long wait for the Everton match, Arsenal turn right around and face Aston Villa at home Saturday. Arsenal won their previous two meetings with the Villans this year, winning 2-1 in the league in late December on a late Yossi Benayoun headed goal (drink), and 3-2 at the Emirates Stadium thanks to three goals in seven minutes after going two down in the first half. So it might be prudent to expect an odd game.

Since nobody left the Everton with grievous injury, I would say that it's safe to bet that the team will look much the same as it did against Everton, et al. I will add, though, that I doubt Arsene Wenger will use the same starting XI as he did against the Toffees, mostly because it was a little crazy to play Tomas Rosicky and Aaron Ramsey at the same time once, much less do it again. It's more likely that one or the other will play in the middle with the non-starter on the bench; I think either Gervinho or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will start on the left flank, with goal-running man and usual starter Theo Walcott probably (almost definitely) on the right.

Have you heard that Squillaci, Mertesacker, Coquelin, Wilshere, and Frimpong are hurt? Good, I don't have to go over it again.

Villa have some injuries of their own, with a few important (or at least reasonably good) out or doubtful for tomorrow's match. Leading scorer Darren Bent is out, along with Players I've Heard Of like Ciaran Clark and Richard Dunne, and Confirmed to Exist Player Fabian Delph. Also: Charles N'Zogbia may miss the game due to having a badass name knee trouble.

Alan Hutton still is a thing, somehow. I still loathe Alex McLeish.

We're playing well and they're just playing okay (currently in 15th on 33 points, squarely in no-man's land between Being Good and the relegation zone), so I think it's safe to say this is a game Arsenal should and must win. Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea will play each other before us, so one or both will have dropped points, and one may have gained one or a few. It's a great opportunity to improve our position, but Villa have not lain down in either of our previous meetings, and they beat a thoroughly lackluster Arsenal at the Emirates a little less than one year ago. So nothing is for certain, especially if we're thoroughly lackluster.

Proposed XI:

Sagna - Koscielny - Vermaelen - Gibbs
Song - Arteta
Walcott - van Persie - Gervinho


Alex Song does this before the game. Shay Given scores a goal in the 5th minute. Wojciech Szczesny equalizes in the 60th. Immediately after, Gervinho scores, then adds two more sublimely finished goals. Alan Hutton doesn't commit a single foul for 90 minutes.

I told you to expect weird things.