Aston Villa vs. Arsenal: O'Neills Chance To Wreck Wengers Title Tilt

illya mclellan@illya mclellan @illbehaviorNZSenior Analyst IJanuary 25, 2010

LONDON - DECEMBER 22:  Francesc Fabregas of Arsenal in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates Stadium on December 22, 2007 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Wednesday's match between Aston Villa an Arsenal could well be the most important match of the season for the Gunners. After the meek showing in the cup against a fired up Stoke City (Sir Stanley Matthews would have been proud), the side will certainly have to again prove to their supporters that they will not again do an impression of an invertebrate and this time show some backbone.

Villa has recently fired in a few goals, though tellingly against Blackburn, they were helped by the sending off of Christopher Samba, who was unfortunate rather than malevolent when he fouled out of the fixture.

The concern for O'Neill will be the manner in which Villa's soft underbelly was exposed by the Lancashire outfit even when they were down to ten men.

Wenger of course will be well aware of this and you would again expect him to take on Villa in much the same way as his charges surprised Liverpool earlier in the season. Villa of course will be roused to anger by the manner of their defeat at the Emirates just before the new year.

There is, of course, anticipation amongst the Villa faithful that the currently vibrant Villains will gain verification of their pedigree in this tie, by proving to the league once again that they will not be over-awed by visits from the sides that are more readily talked about as title challengers.

They have already beaten Chelsea and the scalp of Wenger's Arsenal will be something that Martin O'Neill will feel his team have every right to covet. After all, the game at the Emirates was a lot closer than the final scoreline suggested and without the magnificent Spaniard Fabregas's two goal cameo, it was looking as if Arsenal that day would struggle to find the net.

Villa's counter-attacking forays will be something that Wenger will be extremely wary of, as his side has, on occasion this season, lacked shape in crucial moments that have cost them matches that they did not need to lose.

Old Trafford last year, when they were torn apart in the final stages by a United side that turned back the clock to the days when Sir Alex Ferguson's sides were not so defensive in their approach, is just one example.

The availability of Fabregas could well be the key that unlocks the Villains treasure chest, as they were overwhelmed at the Emirates, in much the same way as the Incan Empire was by his ancestors many years ago, almost as soon as the Southern European maestro took the field in the last meeting between these two.

Villa will look to Ashley young and fellow speedster Agbonlahor to sprint their way into holes that may appear in Arsenal's rearguard. The question for these two is whether they will be able to take advantage of openings before Gallas and company can close them.

An engrossing and tumultuous match is on the cards and certainly one that could well be the match up of the round.