Saturday, November 27, 2010

Preview : Pires Get Ready for Gunner Reunion

Players often return to play against their former clubs, but Arsenal fans could certainly be forgiven for looking twice when they see Robert Pires running out against them at Villa Park. The 37-year-old has recently signed a deal until the end of the season at Villa and will almost certainly play some part against the Gunners as Gerard Houllier looks to bring some creativity to his midfield.

It is much needed, as Villa have won just one of their last eight games and have slipped to some very disappointing results of late: a 1-0 defeat to Sunderland and a 2-2 draw (after going up 2-0 with ten minutes to go) against Man Utd to name but two.

However, Villa can take solace from the fact that Arsenal are also a team in the midst of a crisis. Three defeats on the bounce - including a morale-sapping second half capitulation to Tottenham in the North London derby - and Arsene Wenger faces a tough task to get his side firing again.

The return of Robin van Persie could be a major boost as he returns from injury, but Cesc Fabregas' hamstring injury leaves the Gunners short in midfield. Now, more than ever, they need an inspirational player to get their title tilt back on track.


Aston Villa player to watch: Robert Pires. A hero at Arsenal, Pires returns to play against his former side after spending a few seasons in Spain with Villarreal. At his peak, his vision and dribbling skill was among the best in the world, but his powers have waned with age. Bought for his creativity, Pires will not get a full 90 minutes but can still thread a killer pass or deliver a telling cross that could very well turn the game. His intimate knowledge of Wenger's tactical plans could also come in handy.

Arsenal player to watch: Andrei Arshavin. The Russian has not fulfilled his potential since joining the Gunners last year and often drifts in and out of games. Plying his trade on the wings, Arshavin's goal threat has been missing this season as he has picked up just two Premier League goals, but he has the skills to turn a game and will be charged with providing the creativity alongside Samir Nasri in the Arsenal midfield. If he manages to get free, Arshavin will always be a danger, but the mental side of his game is a weakness at the moment and he could prove to be more of a hindrance than a help.

Prediction : A tough win for Arsenal. 2-1

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