Following a classic 5-2 victory over rival Tottenham, Arsenal will visit Villa Park Saturday, looking to continue their strong premier league form against Aston Villa.
Arsenal, who currently sits in 6th place in the league, is not out of the chase quite yet, and will be trying to regain a spot in the top four with a win on Saturday. On the other side, Aston Villa has struggled mightily this season and sits in the relegation zone in 18th place. The Villans are coming off two consecutive defeats by Manchester teams, the first a blown two goal lead at home against United, followed by a crushing 5-0 defeat to City at the Etihad, and need a result for their confidence.
Both squads have dynamic, game-changing players so let’s look at some of the key battles for Saturday’s match:
Speed vs. Defense
Before Emmanuel Adebayor was sent off in last week’s London Derby, which forced Tottenham to play more defensively, it was clear that Hotspur’s pace up front was too much for The Gunners defense. Aaron Lennon, Gareth Bale, Adebayor, and Jermaine Defoe made a relatively slow Arsenal defense look statuesque.
Unfortunately for The Gunners, Villa has a few speedsters of their own in Darren Bent, Gabriel Agbonlahor, and Christian Benteke that, unlike the speedy Spurs, combine their pace with size and strength. The Gunners back line will have to compensate their lack of speed with smart team defense if they want to keep the Villans off the scoreboard.
Mikel Arteta vs. Stephen Ireland
These two midfield maestros play a big role in the midfield for their respective teams. Neither player is the fastest, most skilled, or best in any facet, but what they do bring is chemistry, leadership, and stability.
For Arsenal, Arteta, along with Santi Cazorla, is the link between the defense and the strikers; offering a reliable outlet in possession. He takes many of the free kicks and has been a big reason for Arsenal’s success this season.
On the other side, Stephen Ireland has always been a gritty presence that plays with heart, and while he may take a back seat to some of Villa’s other standouts, he offers a similar link to Arteta in the midfield. His experience and poise makes him a reliable choice in the lineup, and his ability to strike from distance makes him that much more dangerous.
Arsenal vs. Themselves
Arsenal has played well in most of their matches this season, but can sometimes get in their own way when it comes to getting results. The possession based style of play that Arsene Wenger preaches can sometimes have negative affects, leaving them vulnerable to counter-attacks, especially when they can’t finish scoring opportunities. On top of that, goalkeeping errors, own goals, and key mental errors have played a role in Arsenal’s place in the table. While they have done relatively well, The Gunners could be higher without crucial mistakes of their own.
If Arsenal can limit mistakes and play with the fluidity and ingenuity that we all know they can, they should be fine.
If Arsenal plays to their potential and keeps tabs on the speedy Villa forwards, The Gunners should come out on top in a close match
Arsenal 2-1 Aston Villa