A familiar but newer episode of the Arsenal saga. Like the Manchester City match earlier this year, Arsenal outplayed their opponent for the opening portion of the match only to see an ending scoreline that didn’t flatter them. While Arsenal have often lost these matchups against top opponents, it was without the current side’s fight and scoring threats. A setback, but not a wholely unexpected one. The Gunners simply have to push the result aside and get back into gear as they still control the race for fourth.
Like Arsenal, Aston Villa are coming off a loss, but have recently been in good form as they’ve moved into the top half of the table. Prior to their loss to West Ham, Villa beat Leeds, Southampton, and Brighton with a combined scoreline of 9 to 0. Mikel Arteta will be aware of Aston Villa’s resurgent attack, thanks in no small part to the on-loan Philippe Coutinho.
Earlier this season Arsenal reversed their recent fortunes against Villa with a 3-1 win at the Emirates. Prior to that, the Gunners had lost three in a row in the league to Aston Villa, with a combined score of 5-0. Arsenal’s last league win as Villa Park was in December 2015 with goals from Aaron Ramsey and Oliver Giroud.
- Eddie Nketiah
- Gabriel Martinelli
- Albert Sambi Lokonga
- Mohamed Elneny
- Nuno Tavares
- Rob Holding
- Zak Swanson
- Bernd Leno
- Left Out: Arthur Okonkwo.
- Ruled Out: Takehiro Tomiyasu (calf injury)
- Once the lineup dropped for Wednesday that all but confirmed that Tomiyasu would be on the sidelines until after the upcoming international break. He has slowly been working back from his calf injury as the club tries to avoid re-aggravating it yet again. Takehiro has been held out of the Japanese national team camp, which gives him another two weeks to prepare for Arsenal’s match against Crystal Palace on April 4th.
- Meanwhile, how great is it seeing four Arsenal starters called into the latest England national team? Based on their recent performance you can easily make the argument that both Aaron Ramsdale and Ben White should be starters for their next match. And while England has a surplus of attacking talent, there is a chance we could see all four in the pitch together soon for the Three Lions. Quite impressive.
- Wednesday wasn’t Cedric’s brightest moment, but that shouldn’t detract from his recent run of form. While he is a drop-off compared to the first choice Tomiyasu, he’s been a core piece of Arsenal’s backline that recently picked up 15 points in the league. Cedric isn’t going to help Arsenal beat the likes of Man City and Liverpool, but it’s the Aston Villa and Crystal Palaces of the league that will determine the Gunners' final place in the Champions League race. He gets another start at the weekend in hopes that Takehiro is fit from there on out.
- Arteta will stick with the primary players against Villa, and until the end of the season, unless there is an injury. Odegaard, Saka, and Lacazette were all taken out early in preparation for Saturday. The only switch I’ve made to the attack is to start Emile Smith Rowe on the left, bringing in Martinelli in the second half.
How to watch
Saturday (3/19) at 8:30 am ET / 5:30 am PT on the USA Network.
Arsenal - 2
Aston Villa - 1
Arsenal will be eager to move on from Wednesday’s defeat and get their Champions League chase back on track. Outside of Cedric, the first choice starting XI remains fit and available heading into the international break. Mikel Arteta should like his side’s chances on Saturday but Villa does have attacking threats that will trouble Arsenal and will be playing at home. The Gunners see out the three points thanks to goals from Emile Smith Rowe and Alexandre Lacazette.