It's Arsenal and I'm not sure what I see coming with some match facts from the BBC

The easy thing for me to write is that it's going to be very hard for us tonight and that it seems it's now only a matter of time before Steven Gerrard is given his marching orders. But it's games like tonight that can turn it around for him. Not that I recall a game that this has ever happened for a manager, there is a first time for everything and if we win tonight, I'm sure that will be written somewhere.

And it is about winning at all costs. You see, anything but a victory will almost certainly mean defeat against Manchester City at the weekend. By this, I mean if we win, we will have belief for Manchester City and it will give us hope. But if we don't win and can't get ourselves up for this match, we're walking into the weekend deflated.

And while Gerrard only won one trophy from nine at Rangers, I know I don't need to keep writing this but it's the foundation of my opinion about him as a manager, there is a chance he'll find that elusive formula (formation, plan and getting the players up for the match) that will turn it around for him at Aston Villa.

You see, I have to hope it happens tonight because despite reports that this match and the one against Manchester City don't matter about him keeping his job, that story was in the local press so it came from the Club and it was only shared because the CEO endorsed it. The thing is, if Steven Gerrard is close to the sack, so must be Christian Purslow.

If Gerrard has his head on the block for results, then so must the CEO for taking such a gamble. Gerrard was a huge gamble and sacking Dean Smith, despite a poor run of form, was the wrong decision. And if you don't believe that to be the case and you believe the CEO was right, then you have to accept that Steven Gerrard, on the current run of form, is also a dead man walking.

And these owners, I suspect, will see that this is down to the CEO and they'll know that they can hire anyone to engage a firm of architects to come up with some nice drawings of what Villa Park could look like and hiring an old mate would be a massive red flag. Unless your old mate was Sir Alex Ferguson and this was 1997.

I might be wrong, but we've seen this so many times at Aston Villa and everything points to things changing again soon, unless results change very quickly.

The match

So that written, I go in to the match quite nervous. Nervous because I wouldn't be surprised if Gerrard was let go if we got spanked. I think if we see fight, it might help him, but we also need to start seeing some semblance of a team that understand what they are supposed to be doing. I think that is the key thing for Aston Villa tonight.

The manager can't, on the face of things, continue to play Coutinho ahead of Buendia, but maybe Coutinho could play on the left. We also have to start with Bailey, even though I've seen little of Bailey so far to suggest he can make it in Premier League, I think that is largely down to not getting a run of games and he simply has to be given that chance. And we can't start with both Ings and Watkins.

Most importantly, the players that do get sent out tonight have to know what they're going to do when they get the ball and that means there has to be a plan. And it can't be over complicated and it has to be actioned quickly. They must also have an idea of what to do when it can't be actioned quickly. The thing is, these things need to be worked on in training and I think it fair to say that we're not even seeing glimpses of it.

But I live in hope that it comes tonight, because like I said, if we get spanked, I can see the manager going for the same reasons the manager went last season. At the same time, the CEO might not want to pull the trigger on his old mate and then it might be defeat at Manchester City that means the trigger is pulled by the owners.

We'll see, but I hope that Gerrard can turn it around. But if he can't, there is a very good bunch of players for the next manager and our owners have demonstrated a willingness to bring in new players, so Aston Villa is a Club that will have appeal to managers we maybe thought we couldn't attract in the past.

Match facts from the BBC


  • Arsenal did the double over Aston Villa last season - 3-1 at the Emirates and 1-0 at Villa Park.
  • Only one of the last 18 Premier League games between these clubs has ended in a draw - Arsenal have won 12 and Villa five.
  • If Arsenal win, it will be their 50th top-flight victory against Villa, who have won only 24 of 90 such games.
  • Only Chelsea and Manchester City have won more Premier League away fixtures at the Emirates than Villa, who have four victories there.


  • The Gunners' four-match winning start to the season is their fourth in top-flight history and on three of those occasions they have gone on to win the title.
  • Arsenal are looking to become the 12th club to start a Premier League season with five victories - but only three of the previous 11 teams to have done that have gone on to lift the trophy.
  • Their five-game winning streak - including the final fixture of last season - has equalled their longest such sequence in the league under Mikel Arteta. Since the Arsene Wenger era, only Unai Emery has managed better - a seven-match run four years ago.

Aston Villa

  • Aston Villa have claimed three points from a possible 12 despite facing teams ranked 12th, 16th, 17th and 18th (prior to the latest round of fixtures).
  • Villa have lost 15 Premier League games since Steven Gerrard took charge last November - only Everton, with 19 defeats, have a worse record in that time.
  • They have won three of their last 15 Premier League games, losing nine of those fixtures.
  • Since the beginning of last season, Villa have failed to keep a clean sheet in all 14 fixtures against London teams and have lost 11 times, conceding 31 goals in the process.