Aston Villa-Arsenal Preview
By NICOLINO DIBENEDETTO
(AP) -- LONDON (SE) - Arsenal seem headed for an eighth consecutive season without a trophy, and the pressure is again mounting on manager Arsene Wenger.
Aston Villa have much bigger problems.
The Gunners will try to rebound from a pair of stunning tournament defeats at the Emirates by capitalizing on a visit by Villa on Saturday.
Arsenal (12-8-6) haven't won a title since lifting the FA Cup in 2005, a drought that continues to be a blight on Wenger's 16-season tenure. They haven't won the Premier League since going unbeaten in 2003-04, and they may be fortunate to be fifth in the table this season, 21 points back of first-place Manchester United.
"If you're a top team, the saga of not winning something for such a long time is always disappointing," forward Theo Walcott told the team's official website. "I don't want to focus on the negativity about that."
The results will do that for him, while only building pressure on Wenger.
Arsenal were ousted from the FA Cup last weekend in shocking fashion, falling 1-0 to visiting Blackburn of the Championship.
They may not have done Wenger any favours again in the first leg of the opening knockout round of Champions League on Tuesday. The Gunners surrendered two goals in the opening 21 minutes and looked overmatched in a 3-1 defeat to Bayern Munich.
They visit Munich for the second leg March 13.
"We've got some great talent in that dressing room, it's just all about putting that into one bowl," Walcott said. "We've had a lot of slow starts, and just give ourselves a lot to do."
Those defeats are also rallying the squad around Wenger.
"We want to do well as a team and do well for him," midfielder Aaron Ramsey said. "He's put all his faith into us and we have to repay him with results. In the last couple of games, they haven't been (results) that this football club should have."
Facing Aston Villa (5-9-12) may be just what Arsenal needs to begin showing improvement. However, the teams played to a scoreless draw in Birmingham on Nov. 24.
Arsenal are 9-2-2 in the past 13 meetings in London, winning the most recent 3-0 on March 24 behind goals from Walcott, Mikel Arteta and Kieran Gibbs.
Walcott, the team leader with 18 goals in all competitions this season, has tallied once in each of the last two meetings with the Villans.
"(We have to) get back to where we should be and start by beating Villa," Walcott said.
While Arsenal's trophy drought seems destined to continue, Aston Villa is just hoping to stay in the Premier League. They're 17 in the standings, one point clear of the drop zone.
Villa, though, gained some confidence from a 2-1 win over West Ham on Feb. 10.
"We are improving. We grow and we improve every day - that is the most important thing," defender Ron Vlaar told the team's official website. "It all starts with working very hard, giving everything that you have then of course you need the results for confidence. Now we've won so that will help us going forward for the rest of the season."
Christian Benteke leads the team with 15 goals in all competitions, and he can't be blamed for the club's precarious position. The forward has six goals over the past five matches.
Updated February 21, 2013