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Match Preview: Arsenal v Aston Villa; Can the Gunners Get a Needed Win?

You write enough of these match previews and you know that they all start to pretty much sound alike. As I sat mapping out this one, the “in me head” draft – the one that always sounds better than the one I actually write – certainly started that way.

You write enough of these match previews and you know that they all start to pretty much sound alike. As I sat mapping out this one, the “in me head” draft – the one that always sounds better than the one I actually write – certainly started that way.

You know the catch phrases I am sure:

  • “If Arsenal play their game they can win.”
  • “It’s early in the season and it’s hard to get a read on this club.”

The list goes on and on. And the one I kept circulating over and over is an oldie but goodie – “It’s a must win game.” It’s very hard to call any match just 5 matches into the season a must win. And depending on  your world view, must win seems harsh when Arsenal are yet to lose in the league.

However, that unbeaten run as appealing as it looks has to be taken into context. There have been 12 points on the table. Two of those 12 were tough matches and if you penciled them in as draws you’d be okay. I am speaking of Everton away and City at home. But the comeback win versus Palace and the draw to Leicester are hardly inspiring in terms of confidence building.

While, I am loathe to call this a must win, its probably better to just refer to it as a NEEDED WIN. There has been so much written about Arsenal’s slow start. The venom doesn’t need rehashing but for whatever reason, the Gunners have yet to find momentum of any sorts and truly could use a win to help act as a relief valve.

There are plenty of things to look at as to why Arsenal have sputtered. There is also plenty of blame as to the reasons. I never get focused on one area as because just as it’s the manager’s responsibility to set the players up for success, it’s the players who have to execute, regardless of the game plan. In my opinion neither players or managers have any room to say they’ve done their part.

And to consider, it’s not like this team is bereft of talent. It has talent in all corners. It’s just talent that is not finding its potential or living up to the form they have held previously. No matter where you look in the lineup there are players that aren’t performing like they did last season and it’s frustrating knowing what they can and should be doing.

Yes, the move to the 4-1-4-1 is to blame as well. But as we saw in the second half versus City – it can work and it should work. But as we explored earlier this week, if it’s a question of learning on the fly, it’s no wonder we look unsettled across the back and ill at ease up front. We’re still trying to figure it out.

Sure, playing Mesut Özil out wide has problems but as anyone who really watches the game with a tactical eye will know, Özil like all of our players up front have freedom to roam and interchange. So where a player lines up at the start of the match shouldn’t necessarily be construed as their primary position nor their primary role.

The flip side to that is, having defined roles and responsibilities in set positions usually gives peace of mind to players. Sports personalities as we’ve learned over time are fragile. For all his banter and self-focused behavior, I bet you Zlatan is as insecure as they come. Arsene needs to consider this and I am not sure at times he does when he sets teams up.

It’s no easy opponent Arsenal face off against either, so Wenger is going to have to find a way to get his charges out of this malaise. He needs to find a way to let them loose and be rampant. Villa have been impressive this season but they have been less than impressive at home. They’ve lost 18 of 38 home matches with Paul Lambert at the helm.  And as defensively stingy as they seemed, especially last week at Anfield, they’ve not looked as sturdy at home.

It’s still early and as all the seasons have shown throwing the baby out with the bathwater now on the season is just premature. We went on a wild run through February last season with everything to play for only to get halted. At some point this team is going to click and given the offensive talent we have at our disposal, when it does it will be dangerous.

Now, on the road to a Villa team with Phillipe “Drogba Made Me Crap My Pants” Senderos and a rough time winning there, Arsenal have the chance to get a well needed and deserved win. I am banking on it.

Players to Watch:
Arsenal: Danny Welbeck. The deadline day signing from United, nearly got off the mark superbly with a quality chip that dinged off the post. While he is still finding his rhythm in this Arsenal side, I still expect him to come good.

Villa: Gabriel Agbonlahor. Once considered a hope for England, he has always been a problem for Arsenal especially last season at the Emirates.

Probable Lineups:

Aston Villa 4-3-3 Arsenal 4-1-4-1

Injuries & Suspensions:
Arsenal: Gnabry (knee) Walcott (fitness) Giroud (ankle) Debuchy (ankle) Monreal (back)
Villa: Cole (shin) Vlaar (calf) Benteke (fitness) Kozak (broken leg) 

Match Officials:
Referee: Mike Jones (3M, 12Y 0R)
Assistant Referees: Scholes, Hussin
Fourth Official: Friend

 Broadcast Info:
UK: Arsenal Player/Highlights on BBC MOTD 1
US: NBC Sports Extra 10:00 AM EST

 YAMA Prediction:
Aston Villa 1-2 Arsenal

Match Facts (courtesy FourFourTwo)

  • Darren Bent has scored eight goals in his last 11 appearances against the Gunners in all competitions including five in his last five.
  • Danny Welbeck has scored three goals in his last two Premier League starts against Aston Villa.
  • Both Arsenal (W1 D3) and Aston Villa (W3 D1) remain unbeaten after four Premier League matchdays in 2014-15.
  • Arsenal are unbeaten in their last 15 Premier League visits to Villa Park, winning eight and drawing seven.
  • Villa have had only six shots on target this season – a league low – but have gained 10 points (W3 D1).
  • Arsenal have conceded 15 shots on target in their four PL games so far this season, five more than Villa (10).
  • Arsenal have played a higher proportion of their passes in the final third (37%) than any other side.
  • Aston Villa have kept more clean sheets than any other Premier League side this season (3), while Arsenal are one of only three teams yet to record one.
  • Arsenal have conceded a headed goal in each of their four Premier League games this season.
  • Danny Welbeck has scored three times in the Premier League against Aston Villa, only against Everton and Swansea has he scored as often



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