I really do feel sorry for Arsene Wenger. The poor bloke clearly loves his club, he obviously puts his heart and soul into doing what he thinks is best for them, he tries to balance things out financially and he’s always got one eye on the long-term future of Arsenal FC.
But after not winning a single trophy since the iPhone was no more than a pipe dream, he’s really been getting plenty of stick from all quarters.
Those nasty tabloid hacks gave him the runaround in his pre-Bayern Munich press conference and he looked a lost soul when the Germans ran out comfortable winners on his patch on Tuesday.
I’m really not a person that revels in the misery of others, but having said that, I do think I’d die of laughter if the Gunners got beaten at home to Aston Villa on Saturday afternoon.
It can’t be easy paying £94 for a ticket and £92 for a pie at Arsenal to watch your team lose, and the natives have audibly vented their frustrations this week on the back of two home defeats.
With their Champions League quest as good as over, all Arsenal have left to play for is a top-four finish and failure is not an option.
Villa’s visit potentially provides an instant remedy, but I don’t think this will be as easy as the 3/10 price for the Arsenal win suggests.
The Gunners’ players must surely feel slightly suffocated by being surrounded by 60,000 doubters and the visitors, who are as long as 8/1, have had the best part of a fortnight to prepare for the fixture.
A blank week last weekend didn’t particularly come at the best time for Paul Lambert’s side after a win over West Ham and a decent draw at Everton, and I’m definitely entertaining the notion they can pick up a point at the Emirates at an enticing 17/4.
Arsenal have only won one of their last four games at home and even that was a scrappy late snatch against an equally scrappy Stoke.
Although Lambert’s young side have struggled all season, solid shows at Everton and Liverpool prove they’re no mugs and they have also scored in ten of their last 12 away games.
With Reading facing Wigan Athletic on Saturday, Villa know they could be dwelling in the bottom three for the next seven days but even still, there’s probably more pressure on the Wenger boys to get the result.
This is one fixture they’ll be identifying as a dead cert in pursuit of fourth and given the current climate, that expectation could further increase the pressure if things aren’t going to plan.
The hosts need to come out all guns blazing to get the crowd onside and stifle any bright ideas Villa have, but if they start slowly – as they have done plenty of times recently – things could go downhill and that logic won’t be lost on Lambert.
If the visitors can make it into the break on level terms they’ll probably draw an angry reaction from the home crowd and the half-time/full-time draw at 33/4 is particularly lengthy.
With big Christian Benteke among the goals, I can see Villa at least registering and I’ve put money on worse things than the 1-1 draw at 10/1.
Both teams to score is hard to ignore for your accumulator at 91/100 and even Villa to score in both halves at 11/2 is worth a small flutter.
Out of the two teams, Arsenal are the ones most likely to pick up the maximum but every time I watch them I see a confused bunch completely devoid of confidence.
The strange thing about them though is that if it does click, they could easily take Villa apart and if you’re backing the Arsenal win, go high to get a bit of value.
A 3Way price of 3/10 isn’t great given the risk and with Villa likely to score, Arsenal will need to get a least two to claim full value.
Arsenal with over 2.5 goals is still only 18/25 and the Gunners with over 3.5 goals option is only marginally better at 31/20.
If you are siding with Wenger’s men to win handsomely, then Arsenal to win both halves at 8/5 is about the best bit of business, but I’ll be waging on the draw, with 1-1 at 10/1 looking most attractive.
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