Arsenal travel up to Villa Park this Saturday and will be looking to boost their morale after a poor performance vs Borussia Dortmund mid-week. Will Paul Lambert’s side be able to keep up their impressive form so far this season?
After Tuesday’s abysmal performance in Dortmund, Arsene Wenger will be hoping his side can bounce-back and get their second win this Premier League campaign against Aston Villa.
But, Paul Lambert’s side aren’t going to sit down and roll over for the Gunners to gain an easy win. Aston Villa are currently sitting second in the Premier League and, like Arsenal, remain unbeaten. Villa’s record, however, is much more impressive, the Birmingham based side have won three times this season – including a 1-0 victory over Liverpool thanks to an early goal from Gabriel Agbonlahor – and drawn their other match against Newcastle in a 0-0 draw. This spectacular start has also lead to manager Paul Lambert recently signing a contract extension keeping him at Aston Villa for until June 2018.
The most admirable part of Aston Villa’s start this season has to be their rock-solid defence. Goalkeeper Brad Guzan and club captain Ron Vlaar have both played key parts in helping their side keep three out of a possible four clean sheets this campaign. With Arsenal unable to score mid-week despite some great chances from new signing Danny Welbeck, Arsenal and Welbeck will be hungry for goals this weekend.
One of the most talked-about players going into this match-day is Arsenal’s record-signing Mesut Ozil. The World Cup winner has failed to play an important part in any of Arsenal’s recent games and has even been sloppy with many of his passes. One could argue this is down to manager Arsene Wenger’s decision to play the natural number 10 on the left wing. Ozil could play a key part in Arsenal’s title challenge this year if utilized correctly. The former Real Madrid superstar proved his worth in La Liga by achieving 47 assists in just three seasons. The difference in quality between Benzema and Ronaldo and then Giroud and Sanogo is clear however, Ozil – with fast and intelligent striker Danny Welbeck now ahead of him – must start proving his worth. Could he once again be pushed out wide to cater for Wilshere and Ramsey to play more offensively in the middle, will Wenger finally acknowledge that Ozil doesn’t play well as a winger or could the German even be dropped to the bench?
Eight months ago when these two teams met at Villa Park it was Arsenal who took all three points thanks to first half goals from Jack Wilshere and Giroud whilst Benteke grabbed a late consolation for the home fans. Without the Belgian on Saturday, all eyes will be on Weimann and Agbonlahor to carry on their form which has seen them get four goals collectively in four games.
Dutch international Ron Vlaar is a major doubt for Aston Villa this weekend due to the calf injury which kept him out of last week’s massive win at Anfield. This means former Arsenal centre back Philip Senderos will replace the club-captain and partner Baker in the heart of defence. Former Arsenal transfer target Christian Benteke remains unavailable after his achilles tendon ruptured in April whilst midfielder Joe Cole is expected to return yet is unlikely to start.
The Gunners will still be without Olivier Giroud (ankle), Theo Walcott (knee) and Debuchy (ankle) whilst Nacho Monreal will also miss the game after picking up a back injury last week. Calum Chambers and Flamini will rejoin the squad after missing the Borussia Dortmund match with tonsillitis and a groin injury respectively. Wilshere is also availale despite fears over him knocking his ankle on Tuesday.
– In the last 15 Premier League matches versus Arsenal at their home stadium, the claret and blues have won only once, drawing seven and losing eight to the North London club.
– Aston Villa have kept the most clean sheets so far this season (3) whilst Arsenal are one of three teams yet to record a clean sheet.
– Arsenal have conceded six goals so far this season with five being scored in the first half.
– A headed goal has been scored against Arsenal in all four of their Premier League games this Autumn.
The pace of Welbeck, Sanchez and Oxlade-Chamberlain will cause problems for Aston Villa’s experienced yet slow defence. If Ozil does play in his favoured number 10 role then Welbeck could definitely get himself on the score-sheet for the first time since leaving Manchester United. His former teammate Tom Cleverly – now on loan with Aston Villa – will be hoping Welbeck’s first goal for the Gunners is not against his side. Looking at previous matches from both of these teams, a tight game is predicted. If the opening matches of this season are anything to go by, expect Arsenal to dominate possession yet Aston Villa to score a set-piece goal.
Follow oohtobeagooner on Facebook
for more latest Arsenal transfer news, injury news, team news and rumours.