Arsenal vs Aston Villa – Pre-game Assessment

Sunday, April 14, 16:30 – Emirates Stadium

Referee: David Coote

Finding hopeful signs for our fixture against Arsenal in London is somewhat of a challenge, but there are nuggets out there!  To start with, we have yet to lose in London this season.  We came close against West Ham, but an injury-time VAR decision negated an apparent Soucek goal, and our streak survived.

The London factor is buttressed by the assignment of David Coote as referee.  He did not do us any favors when he red-carded Boubacar Kamara at Brentford in December, but we did still win the game.  In fact, we also beat West Ham at Villa Park and tied Everton at Goodison Park to make his two wins and one tie the kind of referee we need right now!

Sure enough, we did perform a lot better against Lille in the Europa Conference League first leg on Thursday (winning 2-1) than we did against Brentford and Arsenal showed a little defensive frailty against Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League first leg against Bayern Munich (tied 2-2), but the two European opposition teams are in a slightly different class!

So, commonsense suggests that the very competent Arsenal, who have been unstoppable in the Premier League since they lost at home to West Ham in December, will be much more than our recently suspect defense can handle.  Even the best that Emi Martinez can conjure up will probably not be enough to keep them counting at least a couple of goals.

Perhaps Emery will realistically decide that putting a lot of effort in a losing cause is counter-productive when the team’s second leg against Lille next week is more important.  He may even rest Watkins and/or Bailey when Douglas Luiz is, already, getting an enforced rest for two games (for 10 yellow cards, in case you missed it).

There again, he may have noted that Arsenal are more vulnerable late in the game when they have a comfortable lead (e.g., an 89th minute goal by Nottingham Forest and an 84th minute goal by Newcastle). 

By keeping Arsenal to a maximum of two goals for the better part of the game, we can potentially convert a set-piece effort (e.g., a header by our Ollie Watkins) followed by a scrambly goal at the death.

It’s not an elegant strategy, but it just might work.

 Result Prediction:

Prediction:  Arsenal 2, Aston Villa 2

Predicted Villa Line-Up:

Aston Villa: (4, 4, 1, 1) Martínez, Konsa, Carlos, Torres, Digne, Bailey, Iroegbunam, Tielemans, Rogers, McGinn, Watkins

Subs: Olsen, Lenglet, Moreno, Zaniolo, Diaby, Chambers, Kesler-Hayden, Kellyman

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