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Allons enfants de la patrie, Le jour de gloire est arrive! Vital goes all continental as Arsene Wenger’s barmy foreign army turn up in Birmingham to face an Aston Villa side full of confidence, ready to make it 5 wins out of 5. With Christmas just around the corner now (the game being played December 1st) there is now an opportunity for me to use Fear’s all new and exciting Christmas-Themed images, seeing as he nicked my idea for a ‘silly Wenger’ article image!

Vital Quotes:

Aston Villa's Ashley Young, fresh from scoring a fine curling effort against Blackburn believes that squad morale is at such a high point, they just can't wait for Saturday to arrive.

Speaking to the 'new' Young said:

'We've got a 3-0 win and a 4-0 win so things are looking good going into Saturday's game. Everybody is looking forward to that game.

'It promises to be a cracker in front of another sell-out crowd. We just have to keep doing what we have been doing in recent weeks and hopefully we can celebrate another three points.

'It is another level up but as we showed against Chelsea we can win against these sides if we play our game. We are looking forward to it. It promises to be another great night.'

Villa boss Martin O'Neil on the other hand has turned towards a more 'keep ones feet on the ground' approach with regards his young side, choosing caution over cavalier opinions:

'We've got a long way to go between now and January. We haven't got that many players but you could go through the season with 33 players and have lots of injuries.

'But we couldn't afford that at the moment - we'd be in a lot of trouble. January will give me a chance to have a look at the situation then.'


Meanwhile in London, Le Arse boss Arse-ne Wenger has been speaking to reporter Dan Roebuck (he's no Jack Woodward) on the Official Arsenal Podcast about injury worries, Martin O'Neill and just what influence John Carew has on the league leaders opposition for Saturday evening.

When asked if Wenger had ever contemplated that Villa could break into the top four, le Arse boss was somewhat complimentary about the AVFC Claret & Blues:

'I always thought that since the start of the season, they had a sloppy start a little bit but since [then] they’ve come back and they have a big potential.

I’m not surprised by where they are at the moment.'

'They have a very direct style with a very physical approach to the game. They have a lot of pace as well and that makes them very dangerous.'

Turning towards his opposite number, Wenger believes that O'Neill has a similar passion for football, however perhaps displays it in a different manner:

'I get on well because I feel we have the same sort of passion, we show it in a different way but I get on well with him.'

Wenger believes that John Carew may be the main threat for Saturday's game, with the big man having been the scourge of le Arse for Valencia during Champions League action:

'When he was at Valencia that he had a big potential and he shows that now at Villa as they have a game that is built around him.

'When he gets that he is a very dangerous man.'

Aston Villa Team News:

Gabriel Agbonlahor and Stillyan Petrov are in a race to be fit for Saturday's fixture following injuries that the pair picked up in Villa's 4-0 demolishing of Blackburn Rovers midweek.

Should Villa's top goal scorer (and indeed top scoring Englishman in the Premier League this season) have to sit out the game, O'Neill is most likely, and should hand a rare start to goal-scoring hero Marlon Harewood.

Nigel Reo-Coker is suspended (again!)

If Gabby/Petrov are fit to play, aside from Reo-Coker it would be very much a certainty that O'Neill won't be tempted to change what is a 4-game winning side (take note Rafa!)

Player to watch: #4 Olof Mellberg:

Every time the fact that Olof Mellberg is playing at right-back comes up on Vital Villa, it always sparks a debate and/or tirade aimed at Martin O'Neill's failure to sign a defender who feels comfortable at that position.

There is rarely credit to Mellberg, who as the season has worn on has looked increasingly comfortable in the position, and has showed some silky skills of late including a well taken goal at Middlesbrough last weekend.

He'll have his work cut out against le Arse, but expect him to come through on top!

Arsenal Team News:

Luck has favoured Villa for this fixture as Arsenal go into the weekend without wonder kid Cesc Fabregas.

Arsenal look set to bring William Gallas and Emmanuel Adebayor who were both rested for Arsenal's midweek Champions League fixture.

Alexsander Hleb, Mathieu Flamini and Gael Clichy are also back in contention following their recovery from respective injuries.

Player to watch: #25 Emmanuel Adebayor:

He's the Premier League’s top goal scorer, so he's got to be the one to watch!

(Take note Martin Laursen!)

Le Arse!:

Over recent years, (le) Arsenal F.C. has embraced what has become an ever-increasingly cosmopolitan UK population with a fair few foreign footballers plying their trade for the Premiership side.

When you consider their last league fixture against Wigan, at the Emirates stadium the 16 Arsenal players came from:

France (4), Ivory Coast (2), Brazil (2) Spain, Czech Republic, Togo, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Cameroon...

...and Theo Walcott.

The only issue is that whilst they can be criticised for having a distinct lack of English or even British players (compared to say, Villa's largely British backbone), it is that motley crew of overseas footballers that have propelled le Arse into the Premiership top spot.

The Football Association and a large number of so called “experts” on the beautiful game have sought to blame England's lack of participation in Euro 2008 on the influx of foreigners in the English Leagues.

I’d be looking a little bit deeper, at grass-roots and youth football funding first. Perhaps 'injured' star John Terry’s international fees could go a little way towards paying for it?

After all I think he’ll be ok with just the 120,000 this week, don’t you?

Ref Watch:

The ref this weekend is Mr Chris Foy who comes from St.Helens.

It will be Mr Foy's first game this season involving Villa, having previously officiated last seasons 1-0 home victory over West Ham.

Match Prediction:

Fear's girlfriend Mystic Mug has gone for a 1-0 Villa victory. Lazy Lawro says it will be a draw. I think Villa can sneak this one 2-1, big JC and Ashley Young scoring.

Next Up:

Villa entertain FC Portsmouth next week in yet another stupid kick off time.

Saturday the 8th December, 1245.

Harry Redknapp is believed at the time of writing, to be attending this match.

Date:Friday November 30 2007
Time: 1:12PM

Best of International Football News



Please read as it's taken me feckin ages to write!
30/11/2007 13:17:00
Cheers murph, most excellent, thank you
30/11/2007 13:39:00
i'm a gooner but nice article! agree with wenger about villa and o'neill, i'd fancy them out of everyone else to break top four, but prob not this season. should be a great game, wish we had cesc playing (he may still pass his fitness test) but as long as hleb, clichy and flamini are back i think we'll do OK. A draw would not be a bad result for either side so that's what i'd predict. good luck and enjoy!
30/11/2007 13:42:00
a bit too much of "Le" in it but all right in general. Hleb will probably be short of full fitness too along with Cesc, Diaby, RvP, and perhaps even Clichy. Villa have a respectful side especially up front, while the weaknesses could be the 4 CBs you have lined up at the back. Because we're backs against the wall, and because we might be underestimated, I see the Arsenal winning comfortably 0-2 or 1-3. Cheers.
30/11/2007 13:50:00
Ba ******** humbug.... (he says walking off mumbling about how much he hates Christmas) Great preview though Murph!
The Fear
30/11/2007 13:57:00
Seems as though Cesc might be fit after all, and we might be without Gabby and Stan as well as NRC. If those three are missing I still think we can compete with MOST of the Premiership, but not so sure about Arsenal! I would take a draw now (said that against Blackburn as well), but I hope we put in a top performance, whatever the result. Curtis Davies pace might be useful at the back against the Gumnners, but MON will make as few changes as possible. If Gabby is missing I hope Luke gets a chance to start alongside Big John.
30/11/2007 14:03:00
Its certainly going to be a difficult fixture for Arsenal, and Villa have some pace (in Young and Gabby), and strength (Carew), which makes for a good offensive team. However, with Arsenal's form, I reckon it will be a draw, but I'm optimistic about a win. The defence has largely been good for Arsenal, while our goal scoring woes seem to hvae gone away.
30/11/2007 14:03:00
You cheeky blighters! Good observations about the national side though, so your French is forgiven. Even if he is 95% ready, I doubt we'll risk Fabregas, which is a real blow for us. I just hope that both teams go all out for a win! Watch us scrape it 0-1, or 1-2 thanks to a last-gasp Billy Gallas header. See you Saturday!
30/11/2007 14:29:00
I'm still not convinced MON will pick Harewood ahead of Moore if Gabby is injured.
30/11/2007 14:32:00
Playing against all these non British should be a good tester for us when we get into Europe next year, and it will be good to see how far we have come and progressed.
30/11/2007 14:32:00
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