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Aston Villa - Arsenal Preview

November 24, 2012 11:00 PM IST on ESPN

Villa Park — Birmingham

Referee – Lee Mason?

Arsenal face Aston Villa at the Villa park in this week’s EPL fixtures. Arsenal have just recently announced a new multi-million dollar stadium deal with Emirates. This further strengthens the overwhelming fan view that Arsenal have money to spend. It’s all up to Wenger now to decide if he is going to make a big name signing or more importantly, tie Walcott down to a long term contract. The Englishman has been nothing short of mercurial this season. The stats speak for themselves. Theo Walcott has taken the least minutes, 47, to either score a goal or assist in Europe’s top 5 leagues this season. The second in the list is Messi at 53 minutes per assist/goal. It’s for everyone to see that Theo has matured this season and has actually improved his crossing. He does take corners at times too and his partnership with Giroud is really blossoming at the right moment for Arsenal. This gets us back to the main point – will Wenger do all he can, even financially, to make sure Theo stays? Only time will tell.

Aston Villa

Villa come into this match on the back of a true hiding meted out to them by Manchester City. Just the match before that, they had lost to United 3-2 in a cracking contest. The loss to United was especially saddening as Villa were leading by 2 goals before Chicharito stole the match from them. The match against City at least had no tense moments as the defending Champions won by 5 goals.

On the injury front, Villa fans can take heart in the fact that Bent is back from injury. He might not start the match but the tormentor-in-chief of Arsenal in quite a few matches, should be expecting substitute role at the least. Joe Bennett, Chris Herd, Charles N’Zogbia are all out with knee-related issues. Richard Dunne is out with a Groin strain. Stilian Petrov, diagnosed with leukemia has no set return date. Craig Gardner will definitely miss out until May 2013, at the earliest, with an ACL injury.

The only suspension for Villa will be their Manager Lambert, who has been giving a one-match touchline ban by the FA for his comments after the City match.

Arsenal

Arsenal’s last 2 away matches in the league have resulted in losses. They had a good mid-week as they won against Montpellier, 2-0, in the UCL group stages. Wilshere got himself on the scoresheet for the first time since his return from injury. An interesting fact here is that Wilshere’s last goal for Arsenal was against Villa on 27th November, 2010. The other goal came courtesy of a magnificent Podolski volley after good play from Giroud. Indeed it does seem like Arsenal’s offence has at last started gelling together. But of pressing concern is their defensive record. The Gunners conceded just seven goals in their opening nine matches in all competitions but have let in 18 goals in their last 10 fixtures. So you would expect Bould to have some special sessions before this match for the defenders.

On the injury front, Gervinho and Gibbs are back in contention after recovering from ankle and thigh injuries respectively. Wenger had earlier confirmed that Walcott is out owing to a shoulder injury. Andre Santos has a stomach problem and may well not start this match as it stands.

Villa last 5 fixtures –

L-L-W-W-D

17-Nov-2012 Manchester City 5 – Aston Villa 0 EPL
10-Nov-2012 Aston Villa 2 – Manchester United 3 EPL
03-Nov-2012 Sunderland 0 – Aston Villa 1 EPL
31-Oct-2012 Swindon 2 – Aston Villa 3 CCUP
27-Oct-2012 Aston Villa 1 – Norwich City 1 EPL

Arsenal last 5 fixtures –

W-W-D-D-L

22-Nov-2012 Arsenal 2 – Montpellier HSC 0 UCL
17-Nov-2012 Arsenal 5 – Tottenham 2 EPL
10-Nov-2012 Arsenal 3 – Fulham 3 EPL
07-Nov-2012 Schalke 04 2 – Arsenal 2 UCL
03-Nov-2012 Manchester United 2 – Arsenal 1 EPL

Predicted Line-ups

Aston Villa –

Guzan
Lowton, Vlaar, Clark, Stevens,
Weimann, Westwood, Ireland, Bannan
Agbonlahor
Benteke

Arsenal –

Szczesny
Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen
Wilshere, Arteta, Cazorla
Gervinho, Giroud, Podolski

Interesting Facts –

• Aston Villa haven’t beaten Arsenal at home in 13 attempts since coming from two goals down to win 3-2 in December 1998 (D6, L7).
• Arsenal have lost only two of their subsequent 27 league meetings with Villa. The Gunners also overturned a 2-0 deficit in the FA Cup fourth round last season to beat Villa 3-2 at the Emirates Stadium.

Villa –

• Villa have only won one of their last 10 home games in the Premier League (W1, D5, L4).
• They have earned only 24 points from their 31 games in 2012 – the lowest tally of any Premier League club.
• Their tally of nine points from 12 games is their joint-lowest at this stage of a Premier League season. They made a similar start in 2005-06 and finished 16th.
• The 5-0 defeat by Manchester City last weekend was Villa’s heaviest loss since the 6-0 thrashing at Newcastle in August 2010.
• Paul Lambert’s side have the third worst goalscoring and defensive records in the division; 17 of the 22 goals they have conceded have come in the second half.
• Darren Bent has scored six goals in seven Premier League starts against Arsenal.

Arsenal –

• Arsenal have recorded their lowest points tally after 12 matches under Arsene Wenger. They last fared worse in the 1994-95 season, when they had 18 points from the first 12 games.
• The Gunners conceded just seven goals in their opening nine matches in all competitions but have let in 18 goals in their last 10 fixtures.
• Nonetheless, they are the only team yet to concede in the final 15 minutes of a Premier League match this season.
• Olivier Giroud has scored five goals in his last six appearances for Arsenal in all competitions, including four in the last four.
• Lukas Podolski is the only player in the Premier League to be substituted in all 12 of his side’s matches this season.

Key Battle –

Podolski is currently in a rich vein of form and his face off with Lowton might set it up very well for the Central Duo of Giroud (aerial) and Cazorla (vision).

Prediction –

The confidence seems to be back in Arsenal’s Squad as a result of two vital back-to-back wins this week. Villa on the other hand are still reeling after the massive loss against City. The touchline ban of Lambert won’t serve their cause either. Arsenal should walk away with 3 points but a clean sheet seems a daunting prospect for the away team at this point.

Aston Villa 1 – Arsenal 2

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