Arsenal v Aston Villa
Barclay’s Premier League
Kick off: February 1, 2015 13:30 PM BST
After winning four matches in all competitions including three without conceding in the league, we face a very difficult opponent. At a first glance our match against Aston Villa should be a walk in the park considering they have been awful in terms of goal-scoring (they have netted just 11 goals in 22 matches) and our easiest victory in the first half of the season was at Villa Park when we scored three goals between the 32nd and 36th minutes of the game.
However, today we face Villa without our best player Alexis Sánchez who has a hamstring injury, Danny Welbeck – who gave an excellent performance in the reverse fixture – is out due to a thigh injury and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is also out which reduces our options upfront. That puts our team balance in question as one of three Cazorla, Rosicky or Özil will have to occupy the spot on the left wing.
Furthermore, Villa have added an interesting player to their ranks – Carlos Gil has already shown that his purchase from Valencia might be a good call from Paul Lambert after he scored a wonderful goal against Bournemouth in the FA Cup tie.
Finally, there is one reason in particular to be cautious ahead of this duel and his name is Anthony Taylor. His MoTM-performance that gave Aston Villa all three points from this fixture in 2013-14 has not been forgotten easily. He managed to turn our 1:0-lead into a 3:1-victory for Villa which is something even Mike Dean or Martin Atkinson at their best wouldn’t be able to do. His performance when we played Stoke at Britannia Stadium this season wasn’t much better and, again, we lost.
Actually, the last time we won a game with him in charge was against Sunderland in the 2012-13 away match. He let Cattermole and the other Sunderland butchers foul Jack Wilshere (Taylor, for some reason, lets opponents foul Jack as much as they want) without receiving their marching orders while Jenkinson was given a second yellow card when he deserved it.
Today, we’ll need to be at our best to defeat all 12 Villains on the pitch.
David Ospina will be searching for his fourth consecutive clean sheet, while Hector Bellerin will make our right flank look like Formula 1 track in combination with Theo Walcott. Nacho Monreal or Kieran Gibbs on the left? Gibbs gave an excellent performance in the reverse fixture. Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny are a safe bet for central defence.
Francis Coquelin will have to be cautious with his tackles, Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla will create things from the middle. The Spaniard scored a brace to give us a valuable 2:1-victory in this fixture two seasons ago.
Walcott will take up the right wing. Mesut Özil was MoTM in the reverse fixture but he played as a No. 10. Now he’ll have to make an impact from the left wing. Olivier Giroud will be our main attacking force.
The Villains defend well and have conceded the same amount of goals as us. Still, despite Taylor and our injury-problems, we should dispatch them today. 3:0 for us with goals from Cazorla, Walcott and Ramsey.
Head to head
Premier League (EPL) 20 Sep 2014 – Aston Villa 0-3 Arsenal
Premier League (EPL) 13 Jan 2014 – Aston Villa 1-2 Arsenal
Premier League (EPL) 17 Aug 2013 – Arsenal 1-3 Aston Villa
Premier League (EPL) 23 Feb 2013 – Arsenal 2-1 Aston Villa
Premier League (EPL) 24 Nov 2012 – Aston Villa 0-0 Arsenal
Bellerin Mertesacker (c) Koscielny Gibbs
Walcott Giroud Özil
Arsenal 3 v 0 Aston Villa