Arsenal vs Aston Villa
Venue: The Emirates Stadium
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Arsenal looks to climb towards their top-four target, as they host an out of form Aston Villa side.
Arsenal will look to continue their winning form in the Premier League as they host Aston Villa. Both sides enter the fixture tied on 12 points, with Villa having a game in hand. The Gunners come into the tie off the back of an impressive 1-0 victory against Manchester United, which further emphasised their impressive defensive start to the 20/21 season.
The Gunners’ defence has been the most standout element of their campaign so far, having conceded only seven goals in the Premier League. A far cry from Arsenal’s past defensive woes, Arteta’s side has identified their weakest area and set out to improve it. A resurgence of Egyptian international Mohammed Elneny, alongside new signing Thomas Partey, has stabilised Arsenals traditionally weak central midfield, where new centre-half Gabriel has impressed since joining the Gunners in the summer.
However, it is in attack where Arsenal have struggled to make their mark. The Gunners have only managed to score nine goals in seven matches, with three of those coming in their first fixture against Fulham. Following his impressive 22 goal tally in 2019/20, Gabon international Pierre Emerick Aubameyang has only netted twice so far this season and has looked far from his usual self in front of goal. This will be a major concern for the Gunners, as time and time again, we have seen them struggle to find goals from other areas on the pitch in the past.
Coming into the weekend tie, Arteta will need to have Aubameyang firing if he is to breakdown a solid Villa defence, which has maybe failed to live up to past performances over recent weeks.
The West Midlands side comes into the tie off the back of two successive defeats, conceding seven. Before that, Dean Smith’s side was the strongest defensive outfit in the league, conceding two goals in four games, gaining three clean sheets. Villa had looked to had undergone a defensive revolution, allowing them to progress up the table. However, Villa’s recent matches have put this transformation in doubt.
Villa’s last game against Southampton highlighted just how much work they still have to do if they want to compete for a top 10 spot this year. Sloppy fouls in the final third saw Villa concede two set pieces, which if avoided, could’ve won them the game. Any gains made from their strong defensive start to the season looked to have been forgotten. The Villans were carved apart in the first half, leaving themselves with too much to do in the second.
A spirited comeback came too little too late for Smith’s men; however, it will give the Villa fan-turned-manager hope that he can turn the Villan’s form around ahead of the Arsenal tie. It will be interesting to see whether Smith changes up his lineup, with speculation suggesting Conor Hourihane could return to provide Villa with an added set-piece boost to exploit one of Arsenal’s main weaknesses.
However Villa line up, the B6 faithful will hope to see a more spirited display than what has been shown over their last two games. For a side who beat the champions of England 7-2 only a few weeks ago, Villa still has a lot to prove, and an assured victory against Arsenal would provide a significant step forward for Smith’s side in solidifying their aspirations.
Arteta will regain the services of David Luiz; however, Nelson, Martinelli, Smith-Rowe and Mustafi remain out.
Trezeguet is expected to start as Bertrand Traore picked up a groin injury against Southampton. Conor Hourihane could start.
Predicted Starting XI’s:
Arsenal: Leno, Bellerin, Gabriel, David Luiz, Tierney, Partey, Elneny, Saka, Willian, Lacazette, Aubameyang.
Aston Villa: Martinez, Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett, Luiz, McGinn, Hourihane, Grealish, Watkins, Trezeguet
Score Prediction: Arsenal 3-2 Aston Villa
This tie has the potential to be one of the most entertaining matches of the weekend, with both sides aiming to consolidate their positions in the league. For Villa, they will be looking to achieve a robust defensive display; however, with Aubameyang finding the net last weekend, this Villa tie provides him with the perfect opportunity to start scoring goals.