Arsenal - Aston Villa Preview: Gunners looking to sign off in style

As the curtain comes down on another Premier League season, Arsenal will look to defeat an already relegated Aston Villa side at the Emirates.

Arsenal - Aston Villa Preview: Gunners looking to sign off in style
Image credit: VAVEL

For Arsenal fans, they have been wanting the season to end for a long time, and this weekend the curtain will finally come down on a hugely disappointing season for Arsene Wenger's men. The Gunners once again witnessed a season in which they fell out of the title race, despite looking in an extremely positive position after the first half of the campaign.

However, it is hopefully a term in which experiences have been gained and lessons learned, from a period in which Wenger's name has never before been singled out so vividly as the reason behind the club's failure. Protests around the grounds have been a prominent theme in recent weeks, but Arsenal will be hoping to end their season in convincing fashion, as they take on Aston Villa, who of course are already planning for life in the Championship next season.

An arduous season

After Arsenal's FA Cup successes over the past two years, their troubles have arguably been masked by the major problem of a lack of mentality and bottle. It was those two factors which once again have come back to bite them, as this season has been yet another to forget for the North London club.

Their form in 2016 has been pretty terrible excusing the odd good result, as Wenger's team slipped disappointingly off the pace. The Gunners were dumped out of the Champions League to a certain Catalan club, a thing that has almost become a regularity now, before being knocked out of the FA Cup at the hands of Watford.

There have been a few shining lights since the turn of the year though, with the return to form of Alexis Sanchez and the rise of Alex Iwobi. Nonetheless, inconsistent and poor defensive displays led to Arsenal once again having to fight to stay in the top four. A draw against Manchester City last weekend was enough to confirm Champions League football for next season, but it has been results against teams like Aston Villa who they face on Sunday, that have severely hindered the Gunners this season.

Therefore this weekend Arsenal will be hoping that they put recent troubles behind them, and hopefully show the kind of form that saw them beat Villa 5-0 in the same fixture last season. For both teams then, they will hope to show a sense of pride going into their final game of a campaign that has been filled with dissatisfaction for two very different reasons.

This Aston Villa team have arguably been one of the worst in Premier League history, but they will be wanting to at least show resolve and passion  in their final game before entering the Championship.

Olivier Giroud was on target the last time the two sides met. | Image credit: Yahoo - Getty Images
Olivier Giroud was on target the last time the two sides met. | Image credit: Yahoo - Getty Images

Team news

Arsenal and England have been dealt the cruelest of blows with the news that Danny Welbeck is set for another very length spell on the side-lines. News of his knee injury which he suffered last week against City means he'll miss another nine months before he can return to action. That of course will see him miss the European Championships in France this summer.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is another name that remains out injured, and like Welbeck, is set to miss the Euros. However there is good news about Mesut Ozil who is back in training after missing the last game with a slight hip problem whilst Jack Wilshere could start his first game since returning.

Other than that, all other members of the squad should be fit come Sunday afternoon, after Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin, Joel Campbell and Calum Chambers all played for the U21s in midweek.

As for the visitors, Rudy Gestede is back in training after a groin problem and therefore could be fit to face Arsenal. However there are issues in defence with Alan Hutton and Ciaran Clarke doubtful with calf and ankle injuries respectively. Kieran Richardson and Jordan Veretout are meanwhile also set to miss the final game of the season through injury.

Farewells

Arsene Wenger this week confirmed news that has been expected for a while now, as Tomas Rosicky, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini will be released after their contracts come to an end this summer. Rosicky and Arteta have missed much of the season through injury but could both be in the squad on Sunday as they seek their farewell appearances for the club. Flamini could also be included in the squad but Wenger is yet to decide whether they any of the above names will have any involvement.

The trio have made a combined 641 appearances between them, and they will be experienced figures that will no doubt be missed for their leadership skills next season.

It could meanwhile be a farewell for a few of the other players in the squad that could well leave come the summer as they seek extra game time; Joel Campbell is perhaps one that has  rather surprisingly missed out in recent months despite his good form, and he could well play his last Gunners game. However, his departure very much remains speculation at this stage.

Verdict

Both Arsenal and Villa will be aiming to finish their season with a win, but for an already relegated team the visitors will find it very difficult to come to the Emirates and get a result. The Gunners will be looking to finish the season in strong fashion, and it could well be a convincing end to a struggling campaign for the men in red.