Back to domestic matters after our sojourn to Frankfurt, as Aston Villa travel to The Emirates, looking for their first away win of the campaign.
This fixture at our home is always a special one, as Villa were the first ever opponents at this stadium back in 2006, earning a 1-1 draw. That was back when Villa had a competitive team and were looking toward the European places, rather than at present, where their sole aim is survival after being promoted last season.
Still, even if the Midlands club’s aims are a little more modest, they can hold onto the fact that Arsenal aren’t exactly in full flow right now. Our last Premier League outing showed us at our worst, as recently thrashed Watford put us to the sword and took full advantage of our generous play to snatch a draw – and were unlucky to not take all the points.
Villa have shown spirit in their games so far, and have some players that are capable of splitting us open or at the worst – making the most of our slip-ups.
If we cut out our sloppiness, we should have far too much for Dean Smith’s Villa side, but we’ve been burned far too many times to think this will be a walk in the park. We have been our own worst enemy for a large swathe of this season, and that won’t be cut out in the week’s training we’ve had since Watford last weekend.
Unai Emery will ring the changes though, but should he keep faith with the kids?
Alexandre Lacazette is still out with his ankle problem, so Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang should get the chance to continue his red-hot streak in front of goal.
Bukayo Saka pretty much won us the game in Frankfurt, so could expect to stay in the side, but Nicolas Pepe should find himself back in the team instead. A spot on the bench for the youngster is most likely.
That leaves a flank spot unoccupied, and Reiss Nelson is a name that could come in, although dependant on formation, Mesut Ozil could find himself out wide.
In midfield, Guendouzi was left out of our midweek trip so should be fully rested for this game. Jo Willock played in that game and could well keep his spot, but Lucas Torreira, Dani Ceballos and Granit Xhaka represent some competition. Talking of Ceballos, his versatility may actually see him in the spots behind our sole striker.
Kieran Tierney and Hector Bellerin made their comebacks in our U23 game on Friday, but will not feature here. Rob Holding is another on the comeback trail, and is fully fit, so he and Calum Chambers seem well suited to partner Sokratis, with David Luiz making way. Sead Kolasinac came off early on Thursday as a precaution, but should be fit for this one.
Player to Watch
The new striker has scored just the once for Villa, but he has impressed his new fans so far. The striker has good height and has a frame built for the Premier League. His aerial ability is what sets him apart, although his goal was scored with a precise effort on the deck rather than in the air. His link-up play is decent and his £22m price tag promises more to come. If our defence switches off on set plays, we will get hurt. Wesley will bring late runners into the game too, so Grealish and McGinn could benefit too.
How this could go
This is a potential banana skin. Villa are the third most successful opponent at The Emirates with three wins (only United and Chelsea have won more) and have spent a large amount in order to stay up.
That means they have a squad that can keep up with a frenetic season and go to places like ours and make a nuisance of themselves. They did the same thing against Tottenham and narrowly lost, but the bottom line is if we don’t win this – then it’s points dropped again.
We need our midfield to be more than attacking assistants, we need them to close down space, something we haven’t seen for a while. The defensive side is what is lacking, as well as the common sense needed to weed out the simple mistakes that are costing us.
Who is to bet we won’t concede yet another penalty? We have to hope our players are learning their lessons.
I think we will score, as Villa look less than sturdy at the back even with Tyrone Mings in their ranks. Dean Smith is also well known to favour an attacking formation and tactics, so we could see a high scoring affair.
Pepe needs his first goal, and I fancy him to nick one here.
Predicted Lineup – Leno, AMN, Sokratis, Chambers, Kolasinac, Torreira, Xhaka, Guendouzi, Pepe, Ceballos, Aubameyang
Predicted Scoreline – 4-1 to The Arsenal