A meaningless match? Not quite…
But not much of a match preview, I’m sorry to say. Our stalwart from London (Ontario, Canada–GunnerN5) is not available to do his usual historical analysis of the rivalry. Even TotalArsenal, our fearless leader here at Bergkampesque, is away on family duties (so he cannot contribute with his preffered starting line-up. So, we scrape the bottom of the barrel and find (always cynical, always downbeat) me, 17HT, trying to bring something to the table.
Ah the table…
Look away, look away–I advise BOTH Gooners and Villa supporters.
The latter will have their eyes focused on the match between Watford and Manchester City, one being played not so far from where City were humbled by Arsenal on Saturday Night, ending their attempt at a 2nd (consecutive) sweep of the English Cups. I tried to write a post about that match (and the Mikel Arteta-led resurgence of our club). Many thanks to those (the few and the brave if not the proud…) who read it and left comments. Hopefully you’ll be back and joining me in the comments today. Anybody else? Fresh blood (and/or ideas) is always appreciated.
Villains NEED City to win the match at Vicarage Road. If they don’t, Watford will be safe and Villa will join Bournemouth and Norwich City as the clubs relegated from this season’s Premier League. IF ManCity win today Watford would still be favored to stay up. They play us (Arsenal) next weekend but Arteta might field a rotated side ahead of the FA cup final–or at least instruct his men not to play too hard, risking injury and red cards ahead of the the return to Wempty, er, Wembley for the FA Cup final. Villa would have to beat us today AND better Watford’s result on that final match-day (when we play them).
So, let’s root for Watford. Playing a freshly relegated team seems better than one fighting for their lives…
But, maybe we would prefer playing a motivated club. Surely, Frank Lampard’s Chelsea will be eager to build upon their Europa League Final win in Baku, Azerbaijan last year, where they crushed Arsenal 4-1, when they get another chance in a cup final. They are already in for next years Champions League but will still fancy their return to Wembley and, for a least a couple of guys, a chance to avenge the 2017 final where Arsenal upset them, 2-nil. Additionally, it would be Lampard’s first trophy. (Chelsea, a very different club than Arsenal, got a new manager after winning in Baku; we stuck with Unai Emery despite all signs of our decline being on more than full display.)
And, at half-time of the Watford-City match, the light blues leading by a pair of goals, so, relegation looks like it won’t be settled until our match…
Or next weekend if Arsenal fail to show up today. (Update…it’s now Watford nil- City 4. Villa have it all to play for…)
I believe motivation is a HUGE factor in these end of season matches. Some teams have “nothing” to play for and others are looking ahead to tournament matches and keen to work (only?) on the technical aspects of their games and avoid injury. As fans, we like to believe our guys care as much about each result as we do, but that is simply NOT true. We live in a world of make-believe (if not actual fakery–witness the tolerance of piped in crowd sounds on the screens upon which we watch these closed-door matches).
Even if motivation is harder to come by (especially behind closed doors) we (the fans, at least) also believe in things like pride. So, back to the table…where we sit 10th.
Arteta’s Arsenal are not the same Arsenal that lost that cup final in Baku. A win today and we leap-frog Sheffield United and Burnley into 8th. We’ll need some help on the final day, but it’s still (mathematically) possible to finish ahead of both Spurs and Wolves (though we need quite a tally over these next two games AND Wolves and Spurs losing a pair of South London matches). As it is, we probably need to lick our (league) wounds and accept that the cup final is our only route into the Europa League (and that our Emery-experiment made us into a firmly-mid-table team–or worse).
So, how will Arteta set up his team against a Villa group that should be ready to go to the wall to extend their fight? I’m thinking this line-up (eight changes from the group that beat City!):
Nelson–Nketiah(back from suspension?)–Pepe
I’ll put up the actual line-ups (in the comments) when they’re available (soon)… Please join me for a little live-blogging, or in match commentary (first takes are often the most lucid, I think). Or just ignore me completely. As time goes by I get more and more inured to the experience–and it sort of feels about right, in fact…
Go on then…