Preview: Aston Villa vs. Arsenal

Preview: Aston Villa vs. Arsenal

Arsenal will endeavour to get their top-four charge back on track when Aston Villa welcome them to Villa Park for Saturday’s early Premier League kickoff.

Steven Gerrard’s side went down 2-1 to West Ham United last weekend, while the Gunners lost 2-0 to Liverpool in midweek.

It was an emotional occasion at the London Stadium last Sunday, but unfortunately for Aston Villa, there was little joy to be had, as top-four chasing West Ham abruptly ended the Lions’ three-game winning streak with a 2-1 success on their own turf.

Ukraine’s Andriy Yarmolenko caused a few tears as he opened the scoring in clinical fashion in the 70th minute before Pablo Fornals seemingly made sure of the result with eight minutes remaining, although Jacob Ramsey struck a sublime late consolation to make things interesting.

However, Villa’s three-game winning run with three clean sheets in tow before the West Ham loss has seen Gerrard’s men cement their position in the top half of the Premier League table, with the Lions sitting pretty in ninth at the time of writing.

Gerrard’s crop may have put four unanswered goals past Southampton during their last game at Villa Park, but performances at home have been rather hard to come by for the West Midlands side, who had previously gone four without a win on their own turf before the Saints paid a visit.

Villa have developed something of a penchant for lunchtime kickoffs, though – winning each of their last four 12:30pm Saturday encounters – and Mikel Arteta is less than happy with the Gunners’ lack of recovery time for the early journey.

Attempting to get one over a rampant Liverpool was a step too far for top-four chasing Arsenal, and although a resilient first 45 minutes sparked optimism among Gooners, the Reds’ clinical qualities came to the fore in the second period.

The Gunners’ nemesis Diogo Jota beat Aaron Ramsdale at his near post seconds before being taken off for Roberto Firmino, who had the simple job of converting from close range just after the hour mark after some strong play from Andy Robertson down the left.

Arteta witnessed his side’s five-game winning run come to an end in frustrating fashion on the Emirates soil, but the Gunners remain in the driving seat when it comes to the Champions League race – still in fourth and a point clear of Manchester United with two games in hand.

Arteta was not a happy bunny after the Liverpool loss as he navigates a recovery period of less than 72 hours for the trip to Villa Park, but the fatigued Gunners can take confidence from their four-game winning run away from home in the Premier League, and their youthful attackers have struck 13 goals on rival turf in that period.

Arsenal ran out 3-1 winners when they welcomed Aston Villa to the Emirates earlier this season, but they have suffered back-to-back 1-0 defeats at Villa Park since the Lions returned to the big time in 2019, and it is clear who the fresher set of legs will belong to this weekend.

Aston Villa Premier League form:
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Arsenal Premier League form:
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We say: Aston Villa 1-2 Arsenal
While Villa will aim to take advantage of Arsenal’s jellied legs and hit to the confidence, a few more injury concerns – especially to lynchpin Luiz – is hardly ideal for the hosts.

Villa Park has not been a happy hunting ground for the Gunners in recent times, but Villa are still lacking that little bit of consistency under Gerrard, and we think Arteta’s side have what it takes to shade a close contest and consolidate their hold on fourth spot.

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