By Avenell Dave
What a difference a few months makes.
Many of us, and I include myself in that grouping, were fed up after the Villa defeat on the opening day of the season, the anger for manager and club palpable and prompting broken crests and sensational headlines.
Fast forward and we’re a win away from going top of the table and as usual, it a game we simply have to win.
Looking back at that Villa defeat, there were so many things that went against us on the day.
We conceded two penalties, we had Laurent Koscielny sent off and some of the refereeing was as bad as anything I have seen in recent years. Not that the officiating has been anything but poor over the course of the last few years.
We actually looked pretty good for long spells but perhaps showed some naivety pushing forward but it was one of those games where the lack of signings and a bit of magic just weighed upon everyone.
Arsene Wenger spoke this week about what Olivier Giroud offers us and it put a lot of the striker's assets into perspective.
We know that he provides us with an outlet, holding the ball, great in the air and useful at the back.
He may lack some of Smudger's finesse at times and can over-complicate things but the comparison is a fair one, even though the game has changed somewhat since the late 1980s when a raw Smith joined us from Leicester.
Smith was the main man for a while, but as he got older, his value as a foil for Ian Wright created a potent strikeforce, particularly when George Graham disregarded the talented footballers we had and reverted to a physical, long ball game.
Don't forget that Smith scored 23 goals in one season but when we've been used to the likes of Wright, Nicolas Anelka, Thierry Henry and dare I say it, Eduardo, I do think bringing in someone with pace and venom is essential if we are to mix it up and continue competing.
It’s fair to say Mesut Ozil is not yet at his best for Arsenal but his arrival provided a lift and we need some magic at Villa Park if the relentless chase by Manchester City and Chelsea does not become too much for us.
If we play with the same verve and intensity that we did against Tottenham, we will win, but football doesn’t work that way.
What we will miss is the pace of Theo Walcott to exploit the home side if they choose to push forward during the game.
We used to have a number of pacey players but these days, Theo is pretty much the only one.
It would be too much to expect Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who may well return to the squad, to start making miracles within the first few weeks of his introduction back into the team.
Let’s not forget that he had a stinker of a second season at Arsenal and while he looked good against Villa on the opening day, he is still very young and raw.
What we need, until the club find a striker or players with pace to help supplement the thin squad we have at our disposal, is to remain as tight at the back as we have for most of the season.
Our resolute defence has been the best in the Premier League and it has to continue in that vein this evening if we are to come away with the points.
Villa have plenty of players who usually play within themselves but equally are seemingly able to raise their game when they face us.
It would be great to see Lukas Podolski given another run-out and while there have always been question-marks about his fitness – just look at how many games he has been withdrawn in – he does have a lethal shot and is capable of being very clinical when given the opportunity.
Nothing went for us at the weekend – and any slip up could prove costly in this tightest of seasons.
Sagna Mertesacker Koscielny Gibbs
Arteta Rosicky Cazorla
Ozil Giroud Podolski