A few weeks ago, Mikel Arteta said that every remaining Arsenal match was a cup final. Today’s trip to Birmingham to take on Aston Villa is a double cup final, i.e. it’s extra important. The Gunners saw their five match Premier League winning streak snapped on Wednesday against Liverpool and play away today on short rest (thanks Premier League schedulers). The Gunners need to bounce back strong and get back to winning ways.
Arsenal bested Aston Villa 3-1 at the Emirates earlier this season, but I don’t put much stock in the predictive value of that result. Since what I remember was a particularly poor performance from Villa, the club has changed managers from Dean Smith to Steven Gerrard and are playing much better. They’ve gone from lingering on the fringes of the relegation battle to solidly mid-table. Arsenal have changed formations and have several key personnel differences from that October tilt.
Key today will be whether the Arsenal defense can shut down Villa’s resurgent attacking pairing of Danny Ings and Ollie Watkins, a strike partnership that have managed at least one goal in their last 12 starts together. The Gunners will look to eliminate the errors / let-offs that gave Liverpool two relatively easy goals midweek because if they recur, it will be a long afternoon. My money is on the defense bouncing back.
Both sides are relatively healthy. Villa will be without Marvelous Nakamaba, who is out until next month with a knee injury. Lucas Digne, Douglas Luiz, and Calum Chambers are doubtful. For Arsenal, Takehiro Tomiyasu is a doubt, although that’s not surprising. It was long odds that he played before the international break. UPDATE: Aaron Ramsdale misses out with a hip injury picked up against Liverpool. Gabriel Martinelli is out with illness.
Arsenal - Leno, Cedric, White, Gabriel, Tierney, Partey, Xhaka, Saka, Ødegaard, Smith Rowe, Lacazette
Team news from Villa Park...— Arsenal (@Arsenal) March 19, 2022
Leno starts in goal
Smith Rowe in for Martinelli
Laca leads the line#AVLARS
Aston Villa - Martinez, Cash, Konsa, Mings, Young, McGinn, Douglas Luiz, Ramsey, Buendia, Watkins, Coutinho
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