Arsene Wenger will lead his Arsenal side to Villa Park on Sunday evening to get three points off relegation contenders Aston Villa. Wenger will be seeking to add to the woes of his friend and former player Rémi Garde, who has presided over two draws and two defeats since agreeing to become the manager of the Premier League’s bottom club on the advice of Wenger. Garde broadly shares Wenger’s footballing philosophy but the Arsenal manager reckons his protege has to adapt his ideas to recognise the difficulty of Villa’s predicament.
The Gunners will be confident of getting the three points following their midweek Champions League heroics in Greece. They qualified for the knockout stages for the 16th consecutive season, which will give the players a huge boost ahead of the new year. Whereas, for Villa, the drums of relegation have started to beat. Having been winless in the Premier League season so far,the hosts will look to stop the Gunners from getting the three points.
Here is the preview of the game at Villa Park:
Kickoff and Live Telecast
Channel: StarSports4, StarSports HD4.
Live Stream: starsports.com
Date and Time: Sunday, 13th December 2015 – 13:30 GMT (19:00 IST)
Venue: Villa Park, Birmingham.
Aston Villa will see the return of Leandro Bacuna and Rudy Gestede after they had both picked up knocks last weekend. Jack Grealish is also in contention for Villa after a two-match absence as punishment for his off-field behavior. The hosts will be without their captain, Micah Richards, as he remains doubtful with a knee injury. Long-term absentee Jordan Amavi is also set to miss out.
Arsenal, fortunately, have reported no fresh injuries after their midweek win over Olympiakos. The Gunners, however, remain without the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta, Danny Welbeck, Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin and Tomas Rosicky. Sanchez is due to be back in training next week ahead of a possible return against Manchester City next week. Theo Walcott, Joel Campbell and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are set to compete for the two wide roles. Campbell can be expected to start alongside one of the other two as he has been impressive.
The upcoming festive season fixtures might force Wenger to rest some players like Monreal and Ozil, but maybe a half time or second half substitution will be the way to go.
Aston Villa (4-2-3-1): Guzan, Hutton, Okore, Lescott, Bacuna, Veretout, Sanchez, Gueye, Sinclair, Gestede, Ayew.
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Flamini, Ramsey; Campbell, Ozil, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Giroud.
Aston Villa have endured a miserable season in the Premier League so far. They have not recorded a victory since the opening day of the season. The hosts are seven points adrift of safety at the bottom of the table and the gap could widen before they take to the pitch against the Gunners on Sunday. However, Villa have shown signs of improvement when they drew 1-1 against Southampton last week.
In their last five games, Villa have managed to get two draws and three losses. Villa's main problem this season has been the defence as they have kept just two clean sheets in their 15 matches, the last of which came against Manchester City last month. Only Newcastle United, Bournemouth and Sunderland have conceded more than the Midlands club's 28 goals in the Premier League this term. Villa have also struggled immensely at the other end of the pitch being the joint-lowest scorers in the division with Stoke City on 13 goals. Jordan Ayew has scored the most goals this season with three. Manager Garde will be hoping for improvement in his side's form at home starting against Arsenal as they look to fight the relagation battle.
Last 5 games: L-D-L-L-D (Last match: Southampton 1-1 Aston Villa)
Arsenal are in a confident mood after securing their place in the last 16 of the Champions League with a maginificent 3-0 win over Olympiacos. The Gunners were required to produce a flawless performance and they delivered in style as Olivier Giroud netted a hat-trick to ensure Arsenal progressed. Last weekend, the Gunners managed to overcome a stubborn Sunderland side to claim a 3-1 victory at the Emirates Stadium to move above Manchester City in second place in the table, two points behind leaders Leicester City. The victory over the Black Cats will have pleased Wenger as his side ended a run of three games without a win, despite the absences of Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla along with other key players.
Wenger will be eyeing to finish the year yet in top spot as crucial games await his team over the festive period, and Giroud has found his form at the right time for Arsenal to boost the fourth-most potent attack in the Premier League. Arsenal have scored 27 goals in their 15 matches this term, but have also been resolute at the back, shipping just 13 strikes and keeping six clean sheets. In the last five games, the visitors have won three games, lost one and drawn one. They will be looking to continue their good form to move temporarily top of the table by claiming three points at Villa Park.
Last 5 games: L-W-D-W-W (Last match: Olympiakos 0-3 Arsenal)
- Aston Villa have not beaten Arsenal at Villa Park in 16 league matches since a 3-2 victory in 1998.
- Arsenal have won only one of their last four league games, drawing two and losing one.
- The Gunners have won a league-high 72 points in the year 2015.
- The Gunners have scored in nine successive league matches.
- In-form Olivier Giroud has scored in each of his last four appearances against Aston Villa in all competitions. He is one goal away from his 50th in the Premier League.
- Aston Villa have gone a club record 14 league games without a win, drawing three games and losing the remaining games.
- Villa are on an eight-match winless streak at home, which equals their longest ever league run.
- Arsenal have lost just two of their last 14 away league games.
- Arsenal are undefeated in 31 of their last 34 matches against Aston Villa in all competitions.
Rudy Gestede vs Laurent Koscielny
Rudy Gestede is back in the fold for the home team. He has not had a particularly electrifying start to his career at Aston Villa but whenever he has been on the pitch, he has created vital opportunities for the Villains. His presence up front, along with the ability to hold up the ball and bringing the other quicker players into play, will be really crucial for the home side as Arsenal will look to attack right from the first whistle to the last.
Gestede will be up against the likes of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker in Arsenal’s defence. Koscielny, however, will be expected to match the Villa forward’s attacking play with his defensive heroics. The Frenchman has particularly been impressive for the Gunners. He is widely considered as one of the best central defenders in the world. On Sunday, he will again be expected to start the game for the Gunners, and stop any Villa penetrations into the box. The task for Gestede and company will be harder than it will be for the Arsenal defenders.
Olivier Giroud vs Joleon Lescott
Giroud scored the most important hat-trick of perhaps his entire career, in helping Arsenal qualify for the knock-out stages of the Champions League. Arsene Wenger, following that performance, praised him saying, he doesn’t need Benzema when he’s got Giroud firing on all cylinders, and a pat on the back like that, could exactly be the thing that fires the Frenchman up ahead of a busy end of the year period for Arsenal, making him one of the key players at Arsenal at this point in time. Wenger also added that Giroud is one of the best strikers in Europe currently along with Walcott. However, the striker has done so well that he will keep Walcott out, or maybe send him into the right wing.
Giroud will be up against the physicality of former Manchester City defender, Joleon Lescott. The Englishman will be hoping to avoid giving any space to Giroud, whose link-up play has been outstanding recently. It will be a game that will be dominated by the Gunners, but Giroud’s presence can turn the tie in Gunners’ favor if Lescott slips up.
Aston Villa have showed signs of improvement in the past few weeks, but it is not enough to see off the threat of Arsenal. The Gunners have been excellent away from home and the prospect of ending the year at the top of the table will spur on Wenger’s men to win and win big. Villa are still vulnerable at the back and lack a threat in the final third. As a result, Arsenal can be expected to keep their possession, create opportunities, get in crosses for Giroud. Ozil’s vision has been showcased this season, and the German might show why he is the best playmaker in the Premier League and Europe at the moment. Arsenal should be able to pick up the three points to continue their good week by maintaining their challenge for the Premier League title. Goals from Giroud, Ozil or Walcott can be expected. It will be a tough Sunday for struggling Villa.
Predicted score: Aston Villa 1-3 Arsenal
Betting odds (bet365)
Aston Villa – 11/2
Draw – 16/5
Arsenal – 4/7Published 13 Dec 2015, 12:24 IST