Aston Villa vs Arsenal – Pre-game Assessment

Saturday, Dec 9th, 17.30 – Villa Park

Referee: Jarred Gillett

Well, we did it!  Not only did our Villans find a way to beat last season’s triple Champions, they outplayed them.  The statistics are mindboggling. Manchester City’s only shots (two in total) were by Erling Haaland during the same attack in the 11th minute, both of which Martinez saved well.  During the rest of the game, our goalie had no more shots to deal with.  In fact, he did not even have to rely on his teammates to block any.

That is a huge psychological boost before we face Arsenal, the Premier League’s current leader.  With our Premier League home winning streak now at 14, who better to defeat to make it 15 than the Gunners?  By the way, that beating of City ended our decade-long winless run in all competitions. 

Arsenal are beginning to think it’s their turn to take the crown.  Maybe they will succeed in doing so but not without a huge tussle with our claret and blues this weekend! 

Arsenal are definitely hitting their stride when going forward, they are a force to be reckoned with thanks to Saka, Martinelli, Jesus, Havertz, Odegard, and Rice, all outstanding individually and as a group.  Thereagain, we have actually outscored them.  As for goalkeeping, Arteta is not happy with either Raya or Ramsdale.  How aggravating it must be that they gave up on Martinez and traded him to Villa for less than $20 million in 2020!

Based on our Villa’s performance against City, it is hard to see an Arsenal team who struggled to overcome lowly Luton (Rice’s winner was in the 90+7’ of their game) be able to break down a Villa defence at Villa Park.

As a Villa fan, it will be great to erase the memory of us failing to hold a halftime lead against the Gunners last February and, ultimately, losing.  The lead was erased by Zinchenko’s strike from outside the area and, worse still, turned into a loss courtesy of Jorgino’s blast rebounding off the crossbar and then the back of our goalie’s head to gift an own goal.  It is burned into my psyche.

It is informative to compare the difference between that Villa team and today’s line-up.  Both were managed by Unai Emery, but that was the last home defeat before the current winning streak (now at 14).  This team’s backline has added Torres and Carlos, the midfield now features Tielemans, and our strike-force has added Moussa Diaby.

The additions were instrumental in changing the complexion of the game on Wednesday and allowed us to dominate City.  While I do not expect us to dominate a Gunner team playing with much more confidence and commitment, it is hard to see us losing.

The question, then, is how badly we want to beat Arsenal after the emotional high of beating Manchester City.  Another question is will Emery’s team selection, whatever it is, work as well against the Gunners.

Certainly, if Emery starts the same eleven, it will be something of a surprise – he rarely repeats.  For example, against Manchester City, he gave Diego Carlos his first start at home.  That Emery appeared to be heading toward a back three of Konsa, Carlos, and Torres, and the combo finally paid dividends would suggest that he might double-down on that. 

If there are going to be changes, given Emery’s track-record of planning game-to-game, it suggests that any changes to the starting eleven will come from the four substitutes in Wednesday’s game: Ramsey, Diaby, Moreno, and Duran.  I expect to see Moreno and/or Ramsey to start.

As for the result, it’s not time to give up on this winning streak.

Result Prediction:

I believe we will extend our winning streak to 15 in a row.  Prediction:  Aston Villa 3, Arsenal 1.

Predicted Villa Line-Up:

Aston Villa: Martínez, Konsa, Carlos, Torres, Moreno, Kamara, Luiz, McGinn, Tielemans, Ramsey, Watkins.

Subs: Marschall, Cash, Lenglet, Bailey, Diaby, Digne, Duran, Zaniolo, Dendoncker.

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