Poor Aston Villa. They currently sit in 15th place, haven't won a Premier League match since a Week 15 home win over relegation-bound Leicester, and today, they have the daunting task of facing an Arsenal team that's gotten results from 8 of its last 10 Premier league matches (7 wins and a draw, if you're scoring at home). Aston Villa does have the memories of the 3-1 dispatching of Arsenal at the Emirates a couple of years back, and Anthony Taylor reprising his role as referee overseeing said dispatching today, but other than that, this is a match featuring teams going in opposite directions.
Oh, and there's also this tidbit:
522 - Aston Villa have gone 522 minutes of Premier League football since they last scored. Shy.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 1, 2015
For Arsenal, a win today would place them back in Champions League position, sitting along with fourth-place Southampton at 42 points, although Arsenal would have to win by 8 to surpass the Saints in goal differential, and the Saints would have to lose to floundering Swansea later today. (Hey, not out of the realm of possibilities.) A win would also close the gap between Arsenal and league-leading Chelsea to 11 points, place Arsenal back in rightful St. Totteringham's Day pace over Spurs, and would open up some distance in the table over Liverpool and quite-possibly-regressing-to-the-mean West Ham.
The lineup for Arsenal is pretty much a case of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" -- save for the ominous omission of Alexis Alejandro Sanchez Sanchez, who is nursing a hamstring injury. David Ospina will start in goal, Mesut Ozil, Theo Walcott, and dancing sensation Santi Cazorla will support Olivier Giroud in attack, and the surprisingly-effective Coquelin-Ramsey double-pivot will be back in effect. New signing Gabriel will see his first official Arsenal action in a comfy sideline chair.
Also, two special TSF shoutouts today. First, our own Aidan Gibson will be at the match in person. Also a good cross-section of Arsenal America fans will be gathered in New Orleans, where they're celebrating the excellent Arsenal convention known as Gooner Gras, to watch the match.
(Your correspondent would have been among them, but he made his flight plans before BT moved the match to Sunday morning, though he was in New Orleans long enough to poke gentle fun at a Chelsea fan.)
Enjoy the match, friends!