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Arsenal vs. Aston Villa: Gunners look to maintain perfect Premier League start

Knock on all the wood. I swear I’m not trying to jinx them.

Arsenal FC v Aston Villa - Premier League Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Arsenal will look to keep their perfect start to the season intact with Aston Villa visiting the Emirates today. Should the Gunners win, it would be only the fourth time in club history they’ve won five straight matches and would be their best Premier League start ever. Steven Gerrard’s side, however, are a desperate bunch. They’ve managed three points from their opening four matches and need to turn things around quickly. They’ve got plenty of quality in their side but haven’t been able to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts.

Arsenal bested Villa twice last season but only once with Steven Gerrard in charge. The Gunners beat Dean Smith’s side 3-1 at the Emirates in October on the strength of goals from Thomas Partey, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Emile Smith Rowe. They topped Gerrard’s side 1-0 at Villa Park in mid-March, just before the season went downhill because of the injuries to Kieran Tierney and Thomas Partey.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before (and I know you have, I just said it) — Thomas Partey is out injured for Arsenal. The midfielder has a thigh issue that is expected to keep him out for a few weeks. Alex Zinchenko trained with the team yesterday but is not expected to be fit for today’s contest. Reiss Nelson is out long-term.

Villa will be without attacker Cameron Archer (hip, short term) and new midfield signing Diego Carlos (ruptured Achilles, months). Tyrone Mings, who was stripped of the captaincy at the start of the season, was ill at the weekend and may or may not be available. Philippe Coutinho limped off against West Ham but Gerrard said it was mostly due to cramp and that he should be good to go.

A few keys to the match:

  • Douglas Luiz vs. Arsenal’s pressing: the Villa midfielder has a tendency to give the ball away under pressure. The Gunners, especially Martin Ødegaard and Gabriel Jesus, should be able to force him into mistakes to create chances.
  • Bukayo Saka: the young winger has had a somewhat slow start to the season. He’s been involved in the play and created chances but hasn’t scored yet this season, although he did force an own goal against Crystal Palace. He hasn’t scored from open play in 14 straight Premier League matches. It would be nice for him to snap that streak.
  • Aston Villa’s overlapping fullbacks: Gerrard likes Lucas Digne and Matty Cash to get forward into the attack, which could pose a problem for Arsenal by overloading the wide areas. The Gunners’ outside backs tuck in and get forward in possession, so they’ll have to work particularly hard to get back and protect the flanks when the ball turns over.

Arsenal - Ramsdale, White, Saliba, Gabriel, Tierney, Sambi, Xhaka, Saka, Ødegaard, Martinelli, Jesus

Aston Villa - Martinez, Cash, Konsa, Mings, Digne, McGinn, Kamara, Ramsey, Bailey, Watkins, Buendia

WHAT: Arsenal vs. Aston Villa
WHERE: Emirates Stadium
WHEN: Wednesday, August 31st 11:30 am PT | 2:30 pm ET | 7:30 pm BST
US TV: Streaming on Peacock.

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