Arsenal v Villa: Lambert relishing duel with "phenomenal" Wenger
Paul Lambert is under no illusions about the size of the task facing Villa as they travel to Arsenal.
There have been a plethora of newspaper stories reporting the demise of the Gunners.
But Lambert is a huge fan of both the team and the manager.
Pundits have been snorting at successive defeats to Blackburn Rovers and Bayern Munich in the FA Cup and Champions League respectively and criticising Wenger's press conference demeanour.
But Lambert is having none of it!
The 42-year-old Villa boss speaks highly of Wenger's career credentials, hailing his record as "phenomenal, incredible and miraculous" and puts the losses - especially the Rovers one - down to the rich and unpredictable fabric of our beautiful game.
While those same pundits suggest it's the perfect time to meet the Gunners, Lambert believes Villa still head to The Emirates as "underdogs".
"They've only been beaten in two games. They've played one of the best teams in Europe and got beaten by Blackburn. Everyone can make a lot over two defeats and it is magnified because of the club they are.
"If you are beaten by Bayern, I don't think it is a major, major disgrace. Blackburn, I can see why that happens, but Bayern are a top side.
"The Bundesliga is a hell of a league, really powerful and strong. I think people are ignorant to it in this country. They don't realise the fan base it has got.
"I was fortunate enough to play there and it has not changed since my day.
"Every game is vast and the crowds are phenomenal. And Bayern Munich were fabulous.
"We will still be underdogs because they are still a top side. They are still a fabulous side and will no doubt be hurt by the criticism they have taken at the minute.
"The wounded animal is dangerous and they are top side with top players. We've seen it before so they probably know how to react. The criticism has been a bit much from what they should be getting.
"What Arsene has done for Arsenal over 16 years is incredible. It is miraculous. He and Sir Alex have been catalysts - look at what they have done, the longevity, the stability, they have won trophies.
"Arsenal reached the Champions League final when they played Barcelona. He has won the Premier League. He has won the FA Cup. He also went a full season without getting beat. What he's achieved is phenomenal."
Despite his lauding of the opposition, Lambert is firm in his resolution that Villa can come away from the capital with a good result.
He is eager for his team to play with a frisky ambition and scampering fervour but knows they will have to be tight at the back and steadfast too.
"You can't let them settle. You have to give them a game.
"We will have to play really well to get something down there.
"Going forward we are a threat but in terms of stopping them, it is a collective thing. It is not just the defence. It is the whole unit that we have to tighten up.
"We'll give it a go and get on the front foot down there. Benteke's in good form and his confidence is sky-high at the moment, Agbonlahor is fit again which is a bonus, Weimann and N'Zogbia are playing their part.
"Those four lads have been playing very well of late. They are a definite threat.
"We're going to have to put a right shift in too that's for sure. You don't get anything if you don't put a shift in.
"But we are playing with plenty of confidence."
Arsenal v Villa
This game is SOLD OUT.
AVTV DON'T MISS
Arsenal defender Bacary Sagna is out with a knee problem suffered during Tuesday's defeat by Bayern Munich.
Kieran Gibbs remains sidelined by a thigh injury but fellow left-back Nacho Monreal returns after being cup-tied in midweek.
Villa will be wearing their away kit of lime green.
Villa have twice won at Arsenal in their last four league trips.
Villa ended an eight-match winless streak with victory over West Ham last time out.
Christian Benteke has scored in each of Villa's last four Premier League matches.
There have been a league-high 51 goals at the Emirates Stadium this season.
Go to full match coverage for Arsenal 2 - 1 Aston Villa (22nd February 2013) >
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