The forecast in the West isn’t too good for the weekend. The drought we were plunged into for several hours in the spring is now a sick memory. The outlook is much brighter for the Arsenal this weekend, however.
For now I will let the improved sponsorship package with Emirates sit on one side. Much has been written about that today, and a lot of it ill-informed. The only thing I will say at this juncture is that we have reached a point that was deemed to be significant when we moved down the road six years ago. In January and the coming summer we will get an idea of what we have gained as a result of the move. The deal itself has by and large got the thumbs up from people who spend more time than me studying the sector, so well played Ivan and team.
Interestingly I read that our new shirt sponsorship deal provides us with a third of the annual turnover of our Saturday teatime opponents. Aston Villa should be better than bottom three material, but Reading’s victory over Everton last week has planted the Brummies firmly in the relegation zone. Some might draw parallels between Randy Lerner’s cautious approach and that being displayed by ourselves in recent years. We appear to have a solution at hand. Villa seem some way from resolving what ails them.
Of course we are ourselves not where we would expect to be. If we can blow it at Norwich then we have a clear warning to take the challenge of their former manager’s team very seriously indeed. Paul Lambert will be watching from the stands as a result of a ban but you can be sure his team, with nothing to lose it might be argued, will hope to be the latest to prize unexpected points from our grasp.
Having said that Villa Park is a happy hunting ground for us in the Premiership. We are undefeated against Villa there in this century. If gut feel counts for anything then I fancy us to secure all three points from this one. Any threat to that confidence may come from a need to rotate a squad far from full strength. Next Wednesday we visit Everton, who may or may not be above us still at that point. Common sense suggests that Saturday would be the fixture to rest anybody in the dreaded ‘red zone’.
As on Wednesday we have Kieran Gibbs and Gervinho available to return. Gibbs could do with a run-out before next Wednesday, but that may require Arsene to face a few home truths about the form of his skipper, the most obvious candidate to make way. Similarly Gervinho might just get a start ahead of Lukas Podolski, undroppable thus far, but who may possibly benefit from a brief rest before returning at Goodison. In midfield too there is a case for resting either Mikel Arteta or Santi Cazorla, both of whom have become pivotal to our hopes this season.
The ‘holic pound would be ventured on something more aggressive if I didn’t expect some changes. Darren Bent, often a thorn in our side, is also fit to return for the hosts so I’ll plump for a 1-2 away win, a nervous affair to accompany the Saturday night sweet and sour. Gunners Gaming offer an unusual 71/10 against that scoreline. Enter their site via the banner above and try your luck. Don’t forget they will match your first deposit with a free bet up to £25 subject to conditions.
That just leaves me to wish those of you making the trip to Brum (especially those travelling with thirsty Swedes!) a great day out. Spare a thought for those of us out west who are Googling designs for arks as you read this.
A special word too this week for Chris Devlin, a proper Gooner, looking to secure his tour card for next year at the PGA Qualifying School Final in Catalunya. Those of you who met him at the Chelsea game will want to pass on your best wishes, I know. Good luck mate.
Robert Pires Signed DVD
Congratulations to Adam Jones, selected by my glamorous assistant at work earlier, and who correctly answered that Robert Pires was never on the losing side to the little club up the road. The dvd should be with you shortly Adam, congratulations. Thanks also to all of you who entered. There will be other chances for you to win Gunners goodies before too long.
Have a good weekend, ‘holics.
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