After the fallout of a disappointing (assisted) defeat at Molineux against Wolves, the prospect of facing Aston Villa away represents a chance for Arsenal to rid themselves of the unpleasant memory of two red cards and an unpalatable loss. The fact is that Arsenal were massively on top but that superiority and dominance weren’t complemented by goals and when fate took a hand via David Luiz’s red card, the game as good as slipped away.
The Gunners face Aston Villa who have had their own issues and have been on the receiving of a rather unexpected loss to West Ham. They’ve lost five out of their last seven, conceding fourteen and scoring just eight, so the stats imply that Arsenal are in better form at present for whatever that’s worth.
Aston Villa enjoy playing Arsenal having put them to the sword 3-0 back in November with a dazzling performance by Jack Grealish. The floppy-haired Orlando Bloom doppelganger tore the Gunners apart down the right side with every opportunity he got and that was a lot of the time.
Villa aren’t just a one-man band, they have a togetherness and work ethic that has kept them in the top flight and they delight in outwitting so-called bigger opposition. It’s a reasonably good time to play Villa but let’s not underestimate them because that will play into their hands.
Arsenal will have to keep their shape and concentration, barricade the right channel and somehow smother the bothersome Jack Grealish. As much as the Aston Villa man represents a threat, Bukayo Saka is likely to represent similar problems at the other end with his pace and movement and I certainly wouldn’t rule out a goal for the Arsenal youngster.
A key player for Arsenal could be Thomas Partey who pulled the strings against Wolves and could well be the difference at Villa Park. He will have to be at his best, making challenges, shielding the defence, pinching the ball, and pushing the team forward and you wouldn’t rule him out of that type of influential performance.
The biggest concern is in the Arsenal goal with Leno suspended and Ryan doubtful. Arteta must be consulting with the local witch doctor to find an available cure in the hope that Runar Alex Runarsson can remain on the bench whilst swotting up for his exams.
It would be a tragedy if the young man’s career went to the dogs because he was called upon too early and his subsequent mistakes made him untouchable. Although I have a decent level of sympathy for the lad, Villa Park is not the place to take a punt, not so soon after 12 man Wolves took the Gunners to the cleaners. Let it go, Tom. I most certainly won’t.
⏱️ FT | Wolves 2⃣-1⃣ Arsenal
? Wolves end their 8-game winless run and Arsenal's 7-game unbeaten run in the process
? The Gunners ended the game with nine men following red cards from David Luiz and Bernd Leno pic.twitter.com/qmqr4h4cyQ
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) February 2, 2021
If Ryan can’t make it, I’d rather risk Arthur Okonkwo (19) who has a reputation as a shot-stopper but does that make sense? It will to anyone watching Runarsson’s arrival in the Arsenal area after Leno left the field of play. Nervousness swept through the defence like a gale-force wind and everyone seemed rattled by the unsure hands behind them.
Imagine, if Grealish manages to wriggle through and Arteta applies loyalty ahead of logic, it will almost certainly end in back-to-back defeats at a time when every point is crucial in a campaign where nothing is what it appears to be. Arsenal have to be relentless in attack and do everything they put into the first half at Molineux minus the misses and keep Aston Villa off their ‘A’ game.
It’s at times like this where you wish you could turn the clock back for an Adams or a Keown to shut the gate. I can dream can’t I. I’ll be having nightmares if this game goes the way of the Wolves encounter. I don’t dislike the Wolves but they had a season’s worth of luck in one game and their fist-bumping 12th man added the cherry.
Pace, movement, and positive attacking play should be enough to heap more misery on Villa but conclusions are for detective novels. The ‘Cluedo Whodunnit‘ mystery of the early part of the week is over, it was the man in black, with the whistle on the pitch.
On Saturday who knows? Let’s hope it’s not the schoolboy with the greasy glove in the Arsenal goal. Apart from Gabriel or Mari in for David Luiz, I’d change very little. I’d go for Ryan/Okonkwo, Bellerin, Holding, Gabriel, Cedric, Partey, Xhaka, Odegaard/Smith Rowe, Saka, Lacazette, Pepe. No Aubameyang for me because Pepe deserves his run as does Alex Lacazette who puts in the work of three players.
Predicted Score: 1-3 Arsenal win.