Mikel Arteta will aim to make it five wins out of five when Arsenal host a struggling Aston Villa side at the Emirates on Wednesday.
Arsenal sit on top of the Premier League table after securing their fourth consecutive win this season, beating Fulham at the Emirates on Saturday. The victory did not come easily as Mikel Arteta had to adjust his lineup following late injuries to Thomas Partey and Oleksandr Zinchenko.
The Gunners went behind after Aleksandar Mitrovic capitalised on Gabriel’s defensive error but wasted less time to equalise through Martin Odegaard. The Brazilian defender redeemed himself by scoring a winner at the expense of former Arsenal star Bernd Leno.
The victory restored Arsenal’s position on top of the pile, and the Gunners deserve credit for making the best of a decent round of opening fixtures list. Some extensive tests await Arteta, starting with the weekend’s trip to Old Trafford. Before that, they take on a struggling Aston Villa side at the Emirates, with a fifth win firmly on the agenda.
Steven Gerrard has come under the spotlight following Aston Villa’s difficult start to their campaign. The Midlands club scored only three points in their four games, losing the last two Premier League clashes to Crystal Palace and West Ham United.
Despite being the better team on the ball against West Ham on Sunday, Gerrard’s men could not find the opening. Instead, Aston Villa found themselves behind in the second half when Pablo Fornals’s shot from a distance found the back of the net following a deflection off Ezri Konsa.
Following that result, Gerrard may have no reprieve in sight, as they face back-to-back games against Arsenal and Manchester City before the weekend. The manager is already under tremendous pressure, and some sections of their fanbase are already calling for his head. A loss in midweek and at the weekend would be terrible for the former Rangers boss.
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After remaining injury-free since the season began, Arteta’s squad has had some key issues since Saturday. Thomas Partey and Oleksandr Zinchenko were ruled out for the Fulham clash, with the midfielder suffering from a thigh problem and the Ukrainian with a knee issue.
Arteta confirmed they are not in contention for Villa, although Zinchenko could be back for the Manchester United clash at the weekend. Meanwhile, Mohamed Elneny could be sidelined for some time with a significant hamstring problem, meaning Arsenal could be short of central midfielders for the next few games.
As things stand, Granit Xhaka and Albert Sambi Lokonga are the only recognised midfielders in the squad, although Ben White or Zinchenko could also play the role. Fabio Vieira’s name is also thrown into the mix, although the Portuguese is yet to be tested in England.
Arteta could use Lokonga and Xhaka in a double pivot, with Martin Odegaard assuming his role in the advanced position. There are no changes expected to the backline as things stand with Kieran Tierney keeping his left-back role.
Arteta could also ponder changing the forward line as games come thick and fast. Eddie Nketiah impressed on Saturday, although there is no reason for the manager to change his front three of Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka, and Gabriel Jesus as things stand.
Probable lineup (4-2-3-1): Ramsdale; White, Saliba, Gabriel, Tierney; Lokonga, Xhaka; Saka, Odegaard, Martinelli; Jesus
Steven Gerrard provided some fitness updates ahead of the Arsenal clash, focusing on former captain Tyrone Mings. The English defender missed the West Ham game through an illness and is expected to return. The Aston Villa manager suggested he had partial training but could have an entire session on Tuesday.
Gerrard: “Tyrone did a partial session yesterday, we hope he’ll complete a full session today and be available for us.
— Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) August 30, 2022
With Mings expected to make the team, Calum Chambers could make way, with Ezri Konsa expected to partner the England international at the back. The fullbacks are expected to keep their places in the lineup with Matty Cash and Lucas Digne on either flank.
Gerrard could make tweaks in midfield by bringing Jacob Ramsey into the fold. The youngster could replace Douglas Luiz, who, despite having a good game against the Hammers, did not contribute enough to Villa’s attacking play.
John McGinn and Boubacar Kamara will keep their places, as Gerrard could make further changes in the final third. Philippe Coutinho limped off against the Hammers, but the manager only pointed towards cramps. The Brazilian could be involved, meaning Emi Buendia will remain on the bench.
Danny Ings could drop out, with Ollie Watkins taking the central striker role. Leon Bailey could also come in on the right side of the attack, with Coutinho on the left.
Probable lineup (4-3-3): Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Digne; McGinn, Kamara, Ramsey; Bailey, Watkins, Coutinho
- Arsenal have won their opening four games of a Premier League season for only the third time – 2003/04, 2004/05, and 2022/23.
- Arsenal have won nine of their last 11 matches (Premier League).
- A win against Aston Villa will be Arsenal’s 200th victory at the Emirates.
- Arsenal have scored at least three goals in five of their last six home matches against Aston Villa in all competitions.
- Aston Villa have lost their last three away matches in the Premier League.
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The Brazilian centre-back was a man overjoyed by the events at the Emirates on Saturday. After a horrendous error leading to Fulham’s opening goal, the centre-back redeemed himself by securing three points with a late winner. However, the game also exposed some frailties in the defender’s game, which he needs to iron out.
Against Villa, there will be another test for Gabriel against the likes of Watkins and Coutinho. The test is daunting for the centre-back as he needs to toughen up at the back. More mistakes are likely to cost Arsenal valuable points; something Arteta will be keen to address, considering some crucial games are ahead of the Gunners.
Arsenal 2-1 Aston Villa
Arsenal aim to continue their winning run, and the idea is to have five wins in the bag before the trip to Manchester United. Despite few injuries to key players, Mikel Arteta can rely on his squad depth to see another victory. Meanwhile, Aston Villa are on a challenging run and that will continue for a few more games.
While Steven Gerrard’s men had most of the ball against West Ham United, who sat deep, the Gunners are expected to be more aggressive in possession, which could put the Aston Villa backline under tremendous pressure. Expect the Gunners to secure three points, although the away side could score at the Emirates.