Arsenal welcome back a legend for final Premier League home game

Aston Villa will have one very familiar face in their squad that heads to the Emirates on Sunday

Aston Villa’s trip to the Emirates on Sunday will give Arsenal a glimpse of a past which seems all too long ago.

In some ways, it does not seem like five years since Robert Pires, the man who won five trophies in six years at Arsenal, left north London for Villarreal having felt snubbed by Arsene Wenger after his 2006 Champions League final substitution.

But it seems an awfully long time ago since Pires, Thierry Henry, Dennis Begkamp and Patrick Vieira led Arsenal to their ‘Invincible’ season of 2003/04, when the Gunners won the title having not lost a game.

Pires, now on a short-term contract at Villa which expires this summer, may not play too great a part in proceedings on Sunday, but his presence will serve as a painful reminder of past achievements which the current crop of Arsenal stars cannot yet emulate.

His imminent departure from Villa Park in the coming months is just about the only certainty in what is shaping up to be a summer of turmoil for the club, as it remains unclear whether manager Gerard Houllier will return after his recent heart trouble. He has been missing from the dugout for the last three games, with assistant manager Gary McAllister taking charge.

Villa have taken two points from those games, drawing at home to Stoke City and Wigan Athletic but, while their recent form has been indifferent, they have more than enough attacking quailty to upset Arsenal.

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Darren Bent has scored seven goals in 14 games since his �24 million move from Sunderland in January and is a certainty to feature, although McAllister may revert to a more versatile 4-4-1-1 system, with Bent up front and Ashley Young just behind, and support on the wings coming from Stuart Downing and Gabriel Agbonlahor. Nigel Reo-Coker and Stilian Petrov should occupy central midfield.

Villa’s defence is likely to feature Spurs loanee Kyle Walker, alongside veterans Luke Young and Richard Dunne, and ahead of another hugely experienced main in goal, Brad Friedel.

Luke Young this week branded Villa’s season ‘a waste’, and with morale being so low Arsenal should have enough in the tank to squeeze a narrow home win they need to keep Manchester City at bay.

Gazette predicts: Arsenal 2 Aston Villa 1