Aston Villa v. Arsenal
Monday, 13 January 2014, 12PM PT/3PM ET/8PM BT
VIlla Park, Birmingham, England
Last Six Matches (League Only): Villa WDLLLL | Arsenal WWWDLD
SBN's Villa Internet Fabulousness: 7500 To Holte
Remember way back in August, when the wounds of the "disaster" that was Arsenal's summer transfer window were still fresh, but then the season started and everyone was really excited to put all that transfer lack-of-activity behind them and play games? Remember how that went? Yeah, that didn't go all that well.
After that game, legitimate questions started being asked about Arsene Wenger - not just because of that loss, but because that loss paired with his perceived refusal to dip his toes into the transfer market seemed to some to indicate that Arsene Wenger had finally lost the plot, or that his stubbornness had finally gotten the best of him, or that the game had not just caught up to him, but passed him by.
Fast forward to now; if Arsenal win against Villa, they'll return to the top of the table, where they've been for most of the season. The addition of Mesut Ozil at the deadline helped transform Arsenal from a team that meekly folded against Villa into a team who can gut out tough away wins when they're not playing that well.
Just as it was overly simplistic to say that Wenger had lost the plot in August, it's also overly simplistic (and incorrect) to say that Ozil is solely responsible for how well Arsenal are playing now. A lot has gone right for Arsenal this season; from Olivier Giroud's early fantastic form (he's of course come back to earth a bit lately) to the emergence of Theo Walcott (SADNESS) as a legitimate force, Arsenal are a well-balanced attacking team with a defense that would make George Graham proud, being one of the stingiest in the league (18 goals conceded, six of which came in one game).
So it's safe to say that this is a differently-minded Arsenal side that lost so meekly to Villa in August; they come in to this game with a lot of confidence after the FA Cup win last weekend, and this is not an Arsenal team that will fear going to the home of the 11th placed team in the league.
The big question, of course, is who will make the trip - we all know about Walcott, but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain looks set to make the squad again, which is good news. Bendtner, Gibbs, and Ramsey are doubtful, but Giroud should be fit to play, so at least Arsenal will have a striker. Villa has a relatively short injury list, with only Ron Vlaar and Nathan Baker facing late fitness tests.
Arsenal haven't lost at Villa Park in the league since 1998; I see no reason for that streak not to continue Monday.