Arsenal will be desperate to get maximum points as they face Aston Villa on Sunday afternoon. The Gunners currently sit 10th in the Premier League after a sluggish start to the season, with defensive frailties getting the better of them on more than one occasion.
As such, they already find themselves seven points off of first placed Liverpool, but a win at the weekend could see them break into top-four after Tottenham fell to defeat against Leicester City.
Meanwhile, Aston Villa lie in 18th place, with just four points from their opening five games. The newly promoted side have appeared to be a hard team to break down, but ultimately a lack of ruthlessness in the final third has proved their undoing. Should they get a result on Sunday, you can’t help but feel it will need the orchestration of Jack Grealish, who has yet to spark into life within England’s top flight.
Their last game saw Villa record a goalless draw with West Ham, who were reduced to ten men in the second half after a dubious decision.
What happened last time?
The Gunners will have earmarked Sunday’s fixture as a chance to get themselves back into gear having failed to win their past three games. Unai Emery’s side have a brilliant record against Villa, having won five of their last five meetings, scoring 18 goals and conceding none.
However, without the ruthless presence of Alexandre Lacazette, Arsenal will be heavily reliant on the work of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, while summer signing Nicolas Pepe will be expected to step up in his absence to bridge the drop off in goals. Indeed, Dean Smith’s side, while languishing towards the bottom of the table, have shown themselves to be a well drilled out, boasting two clean sheets from three games since losing their opening two games in the Premier League.
Defensively, it’s hard to see Arsenal maintaining a clean sheet in any game at present, such is their complete lack of authority and structure in defence – something Villa will be desperate to exploit.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has started this season brilliantly despite his side’s shaky record in the opening five games, and the Frenchman will be a key player once again for Unai Emery’s side. He has already notched five goals this season, showing incisive movement through the middle of the park, utilising his searing pace to get in behind opposition defences.
His quickfire double in Arsenal’s last Premier League game against Watford should have made it an easy three points for the Gunners before defensive mishaps let them down, but Villa will be wary of the considerable threat he poses in front of goal. Should he get a chance, you’d expect him to make full use of it given his current form.
For Villa, club captain Jack Grealish will need to have a big game in midfield for his side to get anything from the game. Not just a creative influence in the final third, his authority in the middle of the park was crucial to the club’s return to the Premier League and he will need to be alive to the danger on Sunday, tracking the multitude of runners from deep. Any opportunity to break Arsenal on the counter-attack must be seized, exploiting the gaps in their defence with incisive through balls into the front men.
Arsenal will again be without duo Kieran Tierney and Hector Bellerin, despite the pair having returned to full first team training in the week. Both players enjoyed a run out with the Under-23s on Friday night as they step up their rehabilitation from injury.
Elsewhere, Rob Holding travelled to Germany for Thursday night's win over Frankfurt in the Europa League. Albeit unused on the night, it's a reflection of his impending return and the centre-back could be key to hopes of a defensive improvement for The Gunners.
The main injury news remains Alexandre Lacazette, who is out until October with an ankle injury.
As for the visitors, Aston Villa could be boosted by the return of Matt Targett who had been suffering with a thigh injury, but Jonathan Kodjia and James Chester remain sidelined. Trezeguet is available for selection having served his suspension.