Good morning Insiders. It’s been another hell of a week to be a Gooner! Thankfully this week its been for all the right reasons! Man the kids looked good didn’t they?
So the ‘Senior’ side face another tough test today against Martin O’Neill’s Aston Villa. As ever, I’ve been in touch with the opposition faithful, this week I’ve been talking to Damian from the Aston Villa Blog
PGL: After early promise your season has taken a slight wobble much like our own. Many Gooners believe we’ve turned the corner with victory over United last weekend. Do Villa fans see this game as your chance to do the same?
Damian: It has the potential and there are a few that will see any victory after two matches as a turning point but we’re playing Manchester United the week after, which will, as usual, be a huge reality check.
PGL: Teams that play in the Champions League often bemoan the fixture build and dodgy results post-European fixtures are not uncommon. How are Villa coping with the added stresses of European competition this year?
Damian: We’re coping well in the actual tournament and based on the Middlesbrough result we are suffering from post European football blues. It might even be said that we had an eye on the Slavia Prague match instead of Newcastle as we seemed to not bother turning up at St James’ Park. It’s one of those things we have to get on top of and if anyone can focus the lads, you’d like to think it is Martin O’Neill.
PGL: O’Neill and Randy Lerner seem to have a good working relationship, do you think both sides of the club are now right and ready to move on to the next level?
Damian: In terms of the relationship and how it is portrayed, I think most would accept it looks solid, but we don’t hear from our illustrious owner, only the manager, in this regard. The owner won’t speak to the press or us so while we’re told everything is great, we’re only getting half the story because the other half doesn’t communicate. However, we are ready to move to the next level – it’s now very much a case of, is Randy Lerner?
PGL: Personally I though it was a master stroke by O’Neill getting in Brad Friedel, has having a first rate keeper improved you defending overall?
Damian: Personally, I think Friedel has made a massive impact and is possibly overlooked as to how well we’re doing at the moment. He has made some very good saves and I can’t remember a mistake – which is nice when you think back to the mistakes made by Carson and Sorensen. However, the real master stroke was the signing of Brad Guzan as Friedel’s understudy. He played against Slavia Prague last week and kept us in the game and he will be a great keeper for us, hopefully for many seasons to come.
PGL: You’ve got Steve Sidwell in your number now, a former Gunner, last weekends gaff aside, how is he settling in at Villa Park?
Damian: He lost concentration for a second and it went horrible. Mistakes are like that are Sunday league level but you know that isn’t going to happen again. Saying that though, he got us the equaliser against Boro and had his shot deflected off Carew to go in against Slavia Prague in the UEFA Cup and scored when he came on against Wigan – all this, in less than a month. If he does that every month he’ll become a legend at Villa and I think he’s got the potential – if it happens or not, is a different question.
PGL: Arsene Wenger said this week that the role of the captain has changed due to the speed of the English game. In Martin Laursen and Gareth Barry you’ve got two great leaders in your side. How important do you think these leaders are to your side?
Damian: I’ll get into trouble for this but Barry isn’t a leader and Arsene Wenger, a great manager, has summed up why; the speed of the game. Barry is too slow and while the majority of Aston Villa fans will disagree with me, I think in Steve Sidwell we’ve got better. Martin Laursen on the other hand is an inspiration, or that is certainly how it feels and because of his position he does get to see more of the game.
PGL: Your side play with a lot of pace down the flanks with Agbonlahor and Young, do you think the wings will be the key battle grounds?
Damian: Ah, the match! I’d like to think it will be a key area for us and there is every chance James Milner will be available so we should be able to attack down both sides and have Gabby willing and able to run on to a few balls. Milner is yet to demonstrate why we paid £12mn. for him but Ashley Young has shown us several times why Martin O’Neill paid nearly £10mn. and if we’re going to create anything it will most likely be through him and maybe my new player of the month, Steve Sidwell, if he plays.
PGL: We should be brimming with confidence after last weekend and should see the same 11 line out, how will O’Neill set up to try and stop the probable Arsenal 5 man midfield?
Damian: Last season I could have pretty much told you who was going to be playing two weeks before a match and barring injury, I would have likely got it spot on. This season is a little different as we have a few more players, but certain players are almost expected to start under O’Neill, which is starting to annoy a few. I’m going to take a guess though at the following, in 4-5-1, reverting to 4-3-3 when attacking (although you’ve got to fancy it will be mostly defending); Friedel, Cueller, Davies, Laursen, Shorey, Milner, Reo-Coker, Sidwell, Barry, Young and Gabby.
I’m basing this on the news that Carew is a serious doubt and that Petrov and Luke Young are only getting back to training this week, but mostly on the fact that it is Arsenal and Arsenal and you have to go and play five in midfield if you want to stand a chance.
PGL: And finally what’s your prediction for the game?
Damian: What do you want me to say? I can’t predict a loss and on our day we can surprise. It’ll be a draw, 1-1, but Arsenal will have at least twice as many attempts as us and probably a helluva lot more that that.
PGL: So I guess its fair to say every game for us is must win and today is no different. I think we’d all like to see a headline tomorrow of ‘VELA STUNS VILLA’ but I’m still not sure AW thinks our Mexican wonder is ready for the physical side of Prem. This will be a tight fixture and we have to ‘bring it’ to Villa from the off, just as we did against United. If we do I think we’ll run out 2-0 winners. Enjoy the game! RED ARMY!
Got a question for Man. City?
PGL: If you have any questions you’d like me ask for the Man City ‘Ask the Oppo’ put them on here and I’ll put them to next weeks’ interviewee!