Aston Villa vs Arsenal
Kickoff – 8:15 pm BST on Tuesday, 21 July 2020
Arsenal now have two banana skins on the trot until the end of the season and Mikel Arteta’s men could be found guilty of taking their foot off the peddle slightly due to an incredible week which saw them beat the Premier League champions, Liverpool, as well as knocking Manchester City out of the FA Cup.
However, it’s not the time to sit back and admire your work, not with six points available. The first of what is perceived as two easy end-of-the-season games will be against relegation strugglers Aston Villa, with the final game against fellow strugglers Watford, who sacked their manager Nigel Pearson recently.
Both clubs are desperate for points and will present a fair amount of determination and resistance because they are involved in a three-way fight for Premier League survival with Bournemouth.
The Clarets are going to give it everything they’ve got in the Aston Villa vs Arsenal fixture and are exactly the sort of team that Arsenal usually slip up against. Aston Villa, in my opinion, have the best chance of survival but only if, they were to win this massively important game.
Mikel Arteta will be keen to continue the level of performance he has enjoyed recently and will emphasise the importance of finishing the campaign with a flourish. There’s a fine margin between winning and losing in the top flight but both become a habit. Arteta has experienced an upturn in fortunes and will not be keen to go back to square one, not with an FA Cup final coming up.
Villa are actually a better team than their Premier League position suggests. Had they just had a fraction of luck, had the odd decision gone in their favour, they might not be facing relegation. Clearly, their defence has conceded too many goals whilst they haven’t scored enough upfront, ultimately that has cost them dearly.
So the message to Arsenal is that there are goals in this game through the front three, but as long as they continue to swamp any attacks that the opposition mount in a similar way to the City game. Arsenal’s players were advancing towards City in pairs, sometimes in a pincer movement with one pair dropping off as one moved forward.
Arteta has finally got the penny to drop and Arsenal now attack and defend collectively. It’s a vast improvement but there was the occasional glitch with Bellerin’s ham footed pass to Jesus that nearly granted City a goal and the misunderstanding between Mustafi and Luiz. Nothing major, but something to be mindful of.
Focus and concentration still need to be maintained to avoid a shock result and if there is a surprise to be had, Villa will happily take it. They have the quality in Trézéguet (Mahmúd Hassan), Jack Grealish, Jota, and Wesley Moraes but Grealish is their top scorer with 9 goals and 8 assists. However, it’s also interesting to note that he draws the most fouls, 148 times in 2699 minutes of football this season in key areas, so Arsenal will want to avoid getting leggy.
I expect to see a few changes in the Aston Villa vs Arsenal game to keep everyone involved and keen to prove a point for the FA Cup final. Holding will get another outing with Mustafi ruled out of the Aston Villa clash. Saka and Nelson could be back in the frame for inclusion, but Ainsley Maitland-Niles did himself no harm with his energetic display against City.
It would be harmful to Aubameyang’s golden boot chances to rest him, but I suspect Arteta will want to wrap him in cotton wool for the FA Cup final. No sense in breaking up Ceballos and Xhaka, but Willock or AMD could fill in for the Spaniard. I wouldn’t change this pairing at all, it’s become very productive of late and beneficial to both.
Tierney is a must, but I suspect Soares will get another outing to stake a claim for a FA Cup final place. Lacazette will lead the line after a few impressive performances and he may be joined by Eddie Nketiah, who is back from suspension.
The key to the Aston Villa vs Arsenal game is high tempo and applying pressure to Villa from down the flanks. It may be a gritty first half but I’m expecting Arsenal to put in a performance here and win by three clear goals.
Omissions for Aston Villa:- Wesley (knee), Tom Heaton (knee), Bjorn Engels (calf), Neil Taylor (thigh) is a doubt, but Danny Drinkwater and Kortney Hause are available.
Omissions for Arsenal:- Bernd Leno, Gabriel Martinelli, Calum Chambers (all knee), Pablo Mari (ankle), Shkodran Mustafi (hamstring), Mesut Ozil and Matteo Guendouzi (not in the squad).
Preferred Line-up for the Aston Villa vs Arsenal Game: Martinez; Holding, Luiz, Tierney, Soares; Ceballos, Xhaka, Maitland-Niles; Pepe, Lacazette, Saka.
Predicted Line-up for the Aston Villa vs Arsenal Game: Martinez; Holding, Luiz, Tierney, Soares; Willock, Xhaka, Maitland-Niles, Nketiah, Saka; Lacazette.
Predicted Score:- 1-4