Aston Villa and Arsenal will kick off this weekend’s action at Villa Park on Saturday lunchtime, after both falling to Manchester City 3-1 in their most recent Premier League meetings.
Unai Emery returns to his former club as his current side sits 11th in the Premier League rankings, while the Gunners have dropped to second but could quickly regain top spot.
Many wondered how Man City would react to the slew of charges levied against them for alleged financial breaches, but Aston Villa became the latest victims of an Etihad onslaught, as the champions responded as champions should on February 12.
Rodri’s header, Ilkay Gundogan’s tap-in, and Riyad Mahrez’s penalty put the game to bed before halftime, but Ollie Watkins grabbed a consolation for the visitors before Jhon Duran rattled the crossbar with a thunderous volley in the dying minutes.
The scoreline could have been even worse for Villa had Mahrez not ballooned another gilt-edged chance over the bar, and a second consecutive defeat has harmed the Lions’ top-half ambitions, as they enter the weekend three points behind Chelsea and four behind Liverpool, who have a game in hand.
The positives for Villa have outweighed the negatives since Emery took over, as they have scored in all 11 of their competitive games under the ex-Arsenal and Villarreal manager, but conceding seven goals in their last two games does not bode well ahead of a meeting with the title contenders.
Both teams have scored in each of the hosts’ last five Premier League home matches, but only one of those games has ended in victory for Emery, who is well aware of the dangers that his former employers will pose in the West Midlands.
It was Villa’s turn to lose 3-1 to Manchester City at the weekend, and it was Arsenal’s turn to suffer an identical beating at the hands of the champions on Wednesday 15 February, knocking the Gunners off their perch at the top of the table as defensive errors plagued them.
Kevin De Bruyne and Bukayo Saka both had chances in the first half, but the City juggernaut came out all guns blazing in the second half, as Jack Grealish and Erling Braut Haaland punished the error-strewn North Londoners, extending their top-flight winning streak over Arsenal to 11 games.
What began as a minor blip against Everton has now turned into a slippery slope for the Gunners, who have now failed to win any of their last three Premier League games and are now second on goal difference, albeit with a game in hand on Man City.
The title is thus still in their own hands, and a point would return them to the summit on Saturday before Man City face Nottingham Forest in the afternoon, but more and more questions are being raised about the credentials of this young team.
Despite this, Arsenal travel to Villa Park as the Premier League’s best-performing away team this season, conceding a joint-low seven goals, and they won 1-0 in this fixture last season before edging a close contest 2-1 at the end of August.
Aston Villa vs Arsenal Team News
Villa may soon have a full roster as Diego Carlos continues his recovery from Achilles surgery, but he will not be ready for this game, and Jed Steer is also recovering from a calf injury.
Bertrand Traore, who has recently returned from a knee injury, could play his way into contention, while Emery should also be able to call on Tyrone Mings, who missed the defeat to City due to an unspecified problem.
Mings’ likely return would see ex-Arsenal man Calum Chambers drop to the bench after an underwhelming performance at the Etihad, while Lucas Digne also did not impress and could be replaced by Alex Moreno.
For Arsenal, groans rang out across North London when it was revealed that Thomas Partey would miss the game against Manchester City due to a muscle injury, though his absence was described as precautionary, and there is still a chance that he will be able to play on Saturday.
Nonetheless, Jorginho was one of the Gunners’ standout performers on Wednesday night and will start again if necessary, while Mohamed Elneny and Gabriel Jesus are both out due to knee surgeries, and Emile Smith Rowe is still a doubt due to a thigh problem.
Arteta’s decision to start Takehiro Tomiyasu against Manchester City was not justified, so Ben White should return here, and the quick turnaround will also help Leandro Trossard’s chances of replacing Gabriel Martinelli.
Aston Villa Probable Lineup:
Martinez; Young, Konsa, Mings, Moreno; Kamara, Luiz, Ramsey; Buendia, Watkins, Bailey.
Arsenal Probable Lineup:
Ramsdale; White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko; Xhaka, Jorginho; Saka, Odegaard, Trossard; Nketiah.
Aston Villa vs Arsenal Prediction
There may not be a better time all season for Emery to face his former club, and Villa’s penchant for goals, combined with Arsenal’s recent slump, makes clean sheets here seem like a pipe dream.
However, Villa have continued to deceive their own fans, and their leaky defense will no doubt be exposed by an Arsenal side that outplayed Man City in the first half in midweek, so we have faith in the Gunners to climb out of their rut and reclaim the top spot.
We are going with Arsenal winning Aston Villa by 2 goals to 1. Who do you think will win this matchup?
Tell Us In The Comment Section.