Master v apprentice: Will Garde gloom deepen because of Wenger?
Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | December 10, 2015
Buoyed by a famous Champions League win over Olympiakos that sealed their progression to the knockout phase, Arsenal are a fearsome sight for upcoming opponents Aston Villa.
Remi Garde’s Midlands men are Coral’s odds-on 1/5 favourites for relegation because they have just six points and already seven (effectively eight) from safety.
The Gunners have won each of the last three head-to-heads to nil, scoring a dozen goals in Premier League and FA Cup matches against Villa last term. And now there is the added dimension with a managerial master versus protege dynamic in the dugout, as apprentice Garde hosts Arsene Wenger.
All of this explains why the Villans are made sizeable 6/1 shots to pull off a shock at home, and Arsenal are worthy odds-on 8/15 match favourites.
Remi needs repeat of Man City rearguard action
Garde got a real reaction from his players on his bow, holding then Premier League leaders Manchester City to a goalless draw with a backs to the wall defensively display.
Villa’s subsequent outing at Goodison Park was less encouraging, however, as Everton put four past them. Then they lost a five-goal thriller on home soil to Watford, notably scoring twice for the first time since September.
A point at Southampton last time out, though from a half-time winning position, means Garde is yet to win a game in four attempts. It doesn’t get any easier for him, but Villa taking a share of the spoils from this Arsenal encounter at 14/5 is what he should aim for.
Giroud goals give Gunners cutting edge
Widespread praise for Wenger getting his tactics in Greece spot on to keep Arsenal in Europe saw Olivier Giroud hit his first Arsenal hat-trick. While odds of 20/1 for him to repeat that at Villa Park may be fanciful, two or more is certainly a safer bet at 5/1.
Likely to be marking the Gunners’ French frontman is ex-England international Joleon Lescott and, despite occupying the Premier League basement, he is confident of pulling off a great escape.
“If we do avoid the drop – and I’m very confident we can – it would be one of my greatest achievements,” left-footed defender Lescott told local radio. “We believe we can go on and get some results.”
How will Grealish gambit go for Garde?
The decision taken by Garde to suspend Villans prospect Jack Grealish from first-team affairs – following an unauthorised night out in Manchester after the Everton defeat – and make him train with the youth team for a fortnight earned widespread praise.
Steve Frogatt was once a bright young thing in the West Midlands, and the former Villain stressed today’s squad cannot rely on an emerging talent alone. “He’s a kid – you can’t pin your Premier League survival on a kid,” he said of Grealish. “I’m hoping we see a different Jack but with the same qualities with the ball.
“I’m really hoping a spell on the ‘naughty step’ has taught him a bit of humility. He needs to learn he has to behave off the pitch and that it’s maybe not as easy as he thought and that he needs to roll his sleeves up and fight – then everybody will be happy.”
How will Grealish respond to being dropped? He’s 7/2 to knuckle down for Garde and grab a goal against the Gunners anytime.