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  • Arsenal (A) May 15 (16.00 GMT)
  • Arsenal (A) May 15 (16.00 GMT)

McAllister: Good start essential against "free-flowing" Arsenal

By Paul Brown

Gary McAllister insists it's essential Villa start well at the Emirates this weekend - to ensure Arsenal don't find their free-flowing feet from the off.

McAllister is admiring in his appreciation of the way the Gunners go about their business on the pitch but he says his players can't be dragged into that mindset during the game.

He wants his team to relish the challenge and appreciate the quality of their opponents - but not be overawed by them.

He knows Arsenal like to make fast starts to matches, as was illustrated by the game at Villa Park earlier this season - but he wants the claret and blues to counter that with a determined defensive display.

He said: "For parts of that game they were excellent. And just as we were getting ourselves back into that game, we conceded a sloppy goal.

"But the way they started the game that day is a big indication of what our guys should expect at the Emirates.

"They tend to come out of the blocks very quickly as they did at Villa Park.

"When they get into their rhythm and stride they are as good as anybody. We have to be aware of that, stop it and then pose them problems."

McAllister accepts it's been a frustrating campaign for Villa as they head for the Emirates but says Arsenal will also feel a little gutted by their season.

The number two believes both teams have "lots to prove."

He continued: "I am expecting a team who can pass the ball. We have to try and break up that rhythm because on their day they can be as good as anyone.

"But they have had a tough season. Arsene would be the first to admit that it's been frustrating, as it has here at Aston Villa.

"It's two teams with lots to prove. We have to go there and try to cause them problems. But we must, at the same time, be aware of the strengths of Arsenal."

McAllister believes the tough test against the Gunners is a "great barometer" for both the team as a whole and individual players within it.

He continued: "This is a great game as a player because it provides a great barometer. Can you go to the Emirates and come out as man of the match and play in a team that's earnt a point or earnt three points?

"You're testing yourself against a team I believe is one of the best in Europe."

With Jean II Makoun back from injury, Robert Pires eager for a chance to impress against his former club and Marc Albrighton gunning for a recall, the options are there for McAllister.

He says he is considering changes ahead of the big match.

He added: "I know some people are looking at it and thinking 'mathematically' we can still be dragged in but I don't see it.

"I'm still looking to finish two high profile games with two positive results.

"There are still six points to play for and we want to finish as high up the table as we possibly can.

"Going into this game the formation may change a little bit. There may be room to - not necessarily sit back and enjoy - but try a few things.

"I might be looking to do things a little bit differently. There may be a few changes personnel-wise too."

Please be advised that Villa Park coaches will leave at 11am sharp to travel to Arsenal.

Watch Gary McAllister's press conference for the Arsenal game in full ONLY on AVTV - click here

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