Arsenal fans have been wishing for the season to end for weeks and they will be one step closer to closing the curtain on another trophy-less campaign after this weekend’s fixture against Villa.
The 2010/11 promised so much but, just like the previous five years, Arsene Wenger’s side failed to deliver again and will go into Sunday’s game playing for second place.
The pitch up against Aston Villa is the final home match of the season and potentially the final appearance in an Arsenal shirt for the captain, Cesc Fabregas at the Emirates Stadium [should he recover from his thigh injury].
Villa only just clambered to safety after an underwhelming season which started off in the worst possible circumstances following the departure of Martin O’Neill. They’ll need to be wary of an Arsenal side out to avenge last week’s depressing defeat away at Stoke City.
The home side have picked up only two wins from their last nine and need all three points to keep themselves in the running for an automatic Champion’s League spot with mega-rich Manchester City breathing down their necks.
Thomas Vermaelen could make his first start since September and provide a welcome boost to a back four which has been under constant scrutiny all season. With a majority of the goals Arsenal have conceded coming from set-pieces, the Belgian will provide stability and a towering aerial presence that could neutralise any balls into the penalty area. Elsewhere, full-back Gael Clichy could return from his hamstring injury.
Villa on the other hand are free from the threat of relegation and don’t have much left to play for this season. With Gerard Houllier still missing from the dugout through illness, Gary McAllister will continue to hold the fort and could welcome back Ciaran Clark and Gabby Agbonlahor back from injury. The latter will be in the frame to replace Emile Heskey up front following his petulant abuse of the referee last weekend.
Jean Makoun is a slight doubt with a dead leg meaning Nigel Reo-Coker could start alongside captain, Stiliyan Petrov in centre midfield. The pair could prove to be crucial in stopping an Arsenal’s attack.
Amazingly, neither the home nor the away side has found the net from outside the penalty area all season at the Emirates.