ASTON Villa have started the countdown to their weekend visit to Arsenal by examining the condition of injured duo John Carew and Luke Young.
Carew and Young were absentees during Villa’s disappointing 2-1 defeat at home to Middlesbrough on Sunday, their second successive Premier League reverse.
Norwegian striker Carew failed a late fitness test on a hip injury, while defender Young was sidelined with a thigh problem.
However, manager Martin O’Neill is optimistic that both players will be in contention for Villa’s excursion to the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
“Both had injuries which meant they missed the game,” said O’Neill. “Luke’s doesn’t look to be too bad.
“I thought John might be fine for Middlesbrough but he was unable to make it so we’ll see how things progress for the pair of them during the rest of the week.”
Meanwhile, Gabriel Agbonlahor insists he does not need a rest, despite O’Neill’s assertion that the striker has “carried the load” for Villa so far this season.
The Villa manager has been able to rotate his squad to enable most of his first-team players a chance to recuperate from their hectic fixture schedule.
With the team’s lack of attacking options, however, Agbonlahor has been an almost permanent fixture in the starting line-up.
For the next few weeks Villa are without a midweek fixture and although Agbonlahor admits it will be a welcome break he is in no mood to put his feet up.
“It will help the boys rest their legs during the week,” he said.
“It will be good so it can refresh us for Saturday against Arsenal, but I don’t mind. You want to be playing, you don’t want to be sitting on the bench so I’m happy to carry on playing. I’m fine, I’m a fit young man!”
Despite Villa’s defeats to Newcastle and Middlesbrough, Agbonlahor believes O’Neill’s team can enter the daunting Arsenal clash with confidence.
The former Villa Park academy graduate points to the battling 1-1 draw last season as evidence for his optimistic outlook.
“I think last season Arsenal scored in the last minute so we can go to Arsenal with confidence and try to get something, but it will be tough, though, definitely,” he said.
“We all knew what was at stake against Middlesbrough and that if we won the game we’d be up there battling with the top four.
“But I think you have setbacks. There’s no reason that we can’t go and beat Arsenal. We’ve got tough games coming up but we can go into them with confidence with the way we’ve been playing.”
Agbonlahor joined the chorus of support from the Villa dressing room for Nicky Shorey and Steve Sidwell, whose errors resulted in Middlesbrough’s victory.
“When people make mistakes it’s disappointing especially when they cost us the game,” he said. “We need to winning if we want to be pushing up there. They’re games that we should be looking to be winning, but I think we’ll bounce back and hopefully we can go to Arsenal and get something.
“Everyone makes mistakes and if you look at someone like Sidwell, he scored against Middlesbrough and he won the game for us in Prague so he’s done good things as well for us as well.
“We’ll just forget it and I’m sure he’ll come back from it.”