No time for old friendships as Arsenal visit Villa
Due to Aston Villa's injury crisis, Robert Pires could be thrown right in at the deep end against his former club as Arsenal visit Villa Park.
Aston Villa (5/2) have had a bit of a tough time of it since Gerard Houllier took the reins. Since September 8th when he was officially announced, Villa have only managed two league victories. They are unbeaten at home still in the league and they have conceded the joint-second lowest amount of goals in front of their own fans which are causes for optimism.
Arsenal (11/10) and their recent plight is well documented. They seem to lack leaders and battlers on the pitch. Despite being third in the table and just two points off Chelsea, their form at times this season has been worrying.
They have lost three times at home already and their recent capitulation against Tottenham despite leading 2-0 at half time was followed up with a poor away defeat to Portuguese minnows Braga in the Champions League.
The Gunners have a good record at Villa Park however, unbeaten in their last 11 league trips there. With both sides seemingly low on morale - they could both be viewing this match as a catalyst for change.
Villa seem a decent price at 5/2 for me, although they have just won win in eight, they are hard to beat at home. With the crowd behind them and against an Arsenal side without Clichy, Diaby, Eboue, Vermaelen and their best player and captain Cesc Fabregas - I really fancy Villa to cause an upset here.
I would be wary of the draw in this match, the Villans have dropped more points from winning positions than any other side in the Premier League so should they take the lead, nothing is certain. I think the 11/8 on Aston Villa draw no bet has to be considered.
Arsenal have been impressive despite their recent wobble which has seen them lose four of their last six. They have the best away record in the league and have conceded the joint-least away goals so they are still going to be hard to beat.
Due to injuries to their strikers, Villa have had to rely on their midfielders for goals this season which is good for the punters as you get better prices. Stewart Downing leads the scoring charts with four in the league and is 11/1 to score first.
If you fancy Robert Pires to grab the headlines with the first goal against his old club then you can get 12/1 on him obliging. You could also get involved in our latest match winner offer which is 3/1 that any French player will score the first goal (Diaby, Nasri,Clichy, Sagna, Koscielny, Squilliaci or Pires).
As Arsenal don't concede many and Villa have struggled to score (they are on their lowest goals tally at this point in a season since 2005), any scoreline favouring the home side would have to be slender. At 9/1 the 1-0 to Aston Villa result has to be the pick.
At any other point in the season, 11/10 is an attractive price on Arsenal but without some big names and on a recent downer - this could be the perfect opportunity for Houllier to get the home contingent on board.