Another chance to climb into the top half of the table.
With the highs and lows of Monday’s result against Crystal Palace now in the rearview mirror, Arsenal have a great opportunity to on Friday evening. Back at home in the Emirates, and in front of what should be a packed crowd to kick off the weekend, Mikel Arteta’s side welcomes Aston Villa who suffered a late collapse to Wolves last weekend and are just one point and one position behind Arsenal.
It’s been a shift in fortune recently, with Aston Villa going winless against Arsenal between 2014 through 2019, before winning the last three matches between the two sides — a collective 5-0 scoreline coming from the trio of Premier League games.
The Villians are 14th in the current form table for away matches earning just one victory (Manchester United) and suffering three defeats. Meanwhile, Arsenal have earned seven of this season’s 11 points at home. Both sides have already given up 12 goals from the open eight matches of the season, but while the Gunners have only managed seven goals in attack, Villa have scored 12 times.
- Bernd Leno
- Nuno Tavares
- Rob Holding
- Mohamed Elneny
- Ainsley Maitland-Niles
- Bukayo Saka
- Gabriel Martinelli
- Albert Sambi Lokonga
- Left Out: Arthur Okonkwo, Sead Kolasinac, Pablo Mari, Calum Chambers, Eddie Nketiah, & Folarin Balogun.
- Out: Granit Xhaka (knee).
- As of Thursday, we are uncertain on the status and availability of Bukayo Saka after he took a blow to his calf as a result of a senseless kick from Crystal Palace’s James McArthur. Based on that and the fact that Arsenal have a short turnaround between league fixtures it appears unlikely that Saka will start on Friday. If he passes the fitness test I would expect Arteta to include Saka on the bench as a second-half option if the attack is lacking and/or to give Bukayo a few minutes to test out his recovery. If Saka is completely unavailable, look for Eddie Nketiah to move onto the bench.
- Lacazette isn’t expected to be a part of the Arsenal squad next season after his contract expires this summer. In fact, a club may opt to sign him in January for a nominal amount to bring him in sooner and avoid any rivals that might pursue the pre-contract and free transfer route. However, his introduction on Monday was instantly noticeable and while he did secure the late equalizer, his was a big part of the shift in Arsenal’s attitude and attacking drive late in the match. As such, I have him leading the line on Friday against Palace, especially with Saka looking doubtful.
- With Lacazette, Aubameyang, Pepe, and Smith Rowe as the front four, that would push Martin Odegaard back into central midfield with Thomas Partey. Perhaps Arteta will sit Pepe, moving Odegaard into the #10 role and Smith Rowe out wide. That would then allow Sambi, Maitland-Niles, or Elneny to form a more traditional center midfield pair. As you would expect Sambi has had up and down moments so far in his debut season at Arsenal, but the potential is there. Will Mikel give him another start or opt to try a different option there on Friday?
- Monday was the first time the Arsenal defense had allowed two goals since the Manchester Citydebacle, six matches prior. There were no standout performers in the Gunners’ defense, however, with the first choice players all available and perhaps a more defensively minded central midfield the backline can once again earn a clean sheet.
How to watch
Friday (10/22) at 3:00 pm ET / 12:00 pm PT on NBCSN.
Arsenal – 1
Aston Villa – 1
I expect a far more difficult test for Arsenal than they faced in either Brighton or Crystal Palace. But having seen an early lead disappear on Monday and back in front of the fans in the Emirates, Arsenal will hopefully come out strong once again and find an offense that can click for the full 90 minutes.