Arsenal vs Aston Villa – Pre-game Assessment

Our Villans will arrive at the Emirates Stadium this Friday evening facing an Arsenal team with similar strengths and similar problems.  Both teams are loaded with talent, but both have trouble making it work.  Thanks to their late equalizer against Crystal Palace, I expect Arsenal to come out bursting with confidence while our boys will have a tough time lifting their spirits from a demoralizing defeat at home to Wolves.

Arsenal who had seemed doomed to be blaming their loss on Xanit Xhaka’s injury, can celebrate the remarkable skill of Aubameyang to steer their first goal into a sliver of an opening, the opportunism of Lacazette, and the strong midfield performance of Thomas Partey.  While they don’t have a world-class goalkeeper like Villa has, Aaron Ramsey has become a credible facsimile.

Our manager, Dean Smith, has to convince his players that they were the better team against Wolves for most of the game, until the combination of derby-fever and good fortune, undermined their composure. 

Villa do have a couple of slight advantages this time out.  First, they have a couple of extra days to prepare since the Gunners game was played on Monday evening.  They also have a starting line-up that was in the lead when Smith started substituting.  Luiz should be well rested and able to play to the level he had reached before the international break.  Buendia was beginning to consolidate his understanding with Cash and, he too, should be able to play up to his potential. 

That squad has more goals in it than Arsenal’s has (12 versus 7 this season) and we stand to gain a lead.  Then Smith has to consider how to retain, or build on, it.  Much as I love Jacob, he should not be on the field to protect a lead.  Maybe it’s Hause for Tuanzebe or maybe it’s a back four with Cash and Targett protecting the flanks.

That way opponents will not be able to sneak in the back as Lucas Mora and Podence were able to when Mings got pulled into the center.  Smith knows his players’ strengths, so he should be able to figure it out.  If he does, our boys could come back from London with at least a point and get the fans excited again.

My prediction is 2-2.


Aston Villa likely starting XI

Martinez; Mings, Hause, Konsa; Cash, Luiz, McGinn, Buendia, Targett, Ings, Watkins.

Arsenal likely starting XI

Ramsey, Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel, Tierney, Thomas, Pepe, Smith Rowe, Odegaard, Aubameyang

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