Examine Arsenal's awesome record against Aston Villa - and there seems little point in David O'Leary's men turning up this afternoon.

The Gunners have not lost on their last 13 matches at Villa Park, winning ten of them.

More worryingly, Arsene Wenger's men, now boasting a fit Thierry Henry, suddenly look full of menace. Despite having lost five times away from home this season - the most recent was at Charlton on Boxing Day - they exacted swift retribution with a 4-0 demolition of Portsmouth two days later.

"We're up against a class act," said Villa's manager David O'Leary, a proud former Gunner. "They're a quality team with world class players."

But, having let Manchester United walk all over them a fortnight ago, there is a determination in the Villa dressing room to this time not to show too much 'respect' to another of the top flight's big cheeses.

"We can learn a lot from the United game," said Villa's stand-in skipper Gareth Barry.

"We showed them too much respect. And we have to get into Arsenal's faces from the kick-off, unsettle them, play our game and stop them playing theirs.

"If we can do that, we've got a good chance.

"They're in a false position and it won't be long before they're back on top. But their away form has been a bit patchy, there's chances for us and hopefully we can do what other teams have done to them away from home."

Much depends on Villa's makeshift defence coping with Henry and company a little better than they handled Wayne Rooney and Ruud Van Nistelrooy.

But Villa's Christmas return to date of seven goals in two games (including Wednesday night's breathtaking 3-3 draw at Fulham) has made David O'Leary's side officially the most entertaining to watch this season . . . only Manchester United can match their return of 52 goals (23 for, 29 against) from 19 matches.

The fact that Villa are suddenly knocking them in is not entirely unconnected with Milan Baros finally being fit enough to get a proper run. And he looked a different player at Fulham after his two goals against Everton on Boxing Day.

"We knew with Milan it was only a matter of time," said Barry. "Right from the way he played on his debut.

"He's had a couple of injuries but, when he's at his best, he's going to scare most defences. And, if we're going to go up the league, we're going to need him to keep playing like that week in, week out."

Villa are no one-man team, though, as shown by the spirit that shone through to help them three times come from behind at Craven Cottage.

"We showed a lot of character," said Barry, "especially as we twice conceded goals just after we'd scored, which can be demoralising.

"It's not until you look back that you realise how good a game Wednesday night was. But, from the kick-off, we knew they wanted to get at us and that we could create chances. And we were unlucky not to win.

"The manager hasn't got a lot of options right now, but we looked at the Christmas period, realised it was going to be important, that it can make or break seasons and, so far, we've not done too bad."

Injury-hit Villa are without latest casualty Freddie Bouma (knee), who joins Olof Mellberg (hamstring), Kevin Phillips (knee), Patrik Berger (knee), Lee Hendrie (Achilles) Ulises De La Cruz (calf) and long-term absentee Martin Laursen (knee) on the sidelines.

Arsenal have Robin van Persie is back in contention after a knee injury, but the one that Villa have to watch, it almost goes without saying, is Henry.

The Frenchman netted his first two goals in over a month against Portsmouth.

And his intimidating presence against Villa is already duly noted... a record almost in the Robbie Fowler class after ten goals in nine Premiership appearances against the Midlands' top side.

He has bagged a double in three of his last seven meetings with Villa.

And, although he only got one on his last visit 11 months ago, he was chiefly responsible for the onesided three-goal blitz that effectively ended the game as a contest inside the first half hour. An examination of the stats, though, suggests that today's critical time could be the final half hour.

Villa are particularly vulnerable at the death, having eight times conceded goals in the last ten minutes, and four of those in the last five. And Arsenal are at their most dangerous the closer it gets to the final whistle, having scored eight in the last ten.

* Nemanja Vidic is only a work permit away from completing his £7 million move to Manchester United.

Vidic has passed his medical and agreed terms, so, with United agreeing a fee with Spartak Moscow on Christmas Day for the Serbia & Montenegro international, only the final piece of red tape needs to be cleared for the 24-year-old to join Sir Alex Ferguson's squad.