This is it! After 36 games played in the Premier League Aston Villa host Arsenal for their final home game of the season; a fixture which holds paramount importance in deciding which league Villa will be competing in next season.
After Bournemouth suffered a 2-0 loss to Southampton and Watford face the daunting task of playing Manchester City, Dean Smith’s side have the opportunity to gain some vital points before playing their final fixture of the season against West Ham.
After conceding a late equaliser against Everton during their last game, could Aston Villa stake their claim to secure their position in the Premier League and pick up a result against Arsenal?
Smith’s side last faced off against Arsenal in September at the Emirates Stadium as Aubameyang’s late free-kick helped secure the Gooners all three points during this five-goal thriller. Despite John McGinn and Wesley adding their names to the scoresheet that day, Villa failed to leave North London with any points and will be enthused to make this home tie count.
The last time Aston Villa hosted Arsenal at Villa Park was in December 2015, losing 2-0 in front of the passionate Villa faithful. Two first-half goals from Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey helped Wenger’s side claim victory at the imposing Villa Park. The boys in claret and blue will be hoping not to replicate this performance going into Tuesday’s game.
Arsenal will be without Mustafi for the trip to B6. The German defender suffered a hamstring injury during their FA Cup Semi-Final win against Manchester City and will miss the encounter with Aston Villa.
Defender Cedric Soares is available after being cup-tied at Wembley whilst Eddie Nketiah returns following a three-match ban. Pablo Mari, Bernd Leno, Gabriel Martinelli, and Callum Chambers will all miss out.
Kortney Hause will be available for selection for Aston Villa against Arsenal. The versatile defender has been absent with a rib injury however full-back Neil Taylor is unavailable for this encounter.
Bjorn Engels will miss the final two matches this season due to a problem with his Achilles. Both Tom Heaton and Wesley have both been on the sidelines due to long-term injuries and will not be returning to action this season.
View Across The Dugout:
Arsenal are currently sitting in 9th place, which for one of the biggest clubs in England is disappointing. If you were to summarise your season so far in three words, what would those three words be and please elaborate on why you have chosen these specific words.
LACK OF FORESIGHT
The problems of Arsenal have been brewing for years. The club didn’t recognize that Wenger was in rapid decline, when they did, it was an expensive undertaking to correct the issues.
The process wasn’t helped by how we approached it. We made a terrible decision hiring Unai Emery. A super-agent recommendation. He couldn’t speak English, he was known as a poor communicator, and very little in his background suggested he was right for Arsenal. He had a poor record at all his clubs with defence, his football was average, players didn’t really respect him, and he was extremely negative in his approach to the game.
We had also given too much power to our Football CEO who believes in contacts scouting. That’s led us to make a lot of questionable decisions on the transfer front, like reportedly spending £24m to bring David Luiz to Arsenal at 32 years old.
Worse than that, the club didn’t have the guts to change out Emery when he tanked the league in the second half of last season and lost the Europa Final to Chelsea. All the underlying stats pointed to massive decline, but we rolled on with him until late November. If we’d fired him when Spurs moved on Poch, we’d be competing for top 4, not top 10.
After Wenger’s successful 22-year reign, Arsenal have struggled to acquire a manager to take the reigns at the club successfully. With Mikel Arteta currently at the helm, do you believe he has the ability to take Arsenal to glory?
Arsenal has the right man to lead the club back to the top. I campaigned for Arteta after Wenger left harder than anyone, he didn’t land the job that time, but the club went bold the second time around. The game has moved on, a new generation of young dynamic coaches is entering the game. They’re big believers in data, they are absolute students of the game, and they are going to shake up football.
Mikel Arteta is an elite coach, he has a brilliant reputation as a developmental staffer at Manchester City, cited for elevating the talents of Delph, Sane, and Sterling. He is an unbelievable communicator, he has outrageous energy, and he brings players along for the ride.
Taking a risk on a novice is generally only the sort of thing you can do when an ex-player has been with the club before. Mikel knows the weirdness of Arsenal, so he’s adapted to us quicker. I am VERY excited about what he can bring to our future, early signs indicate he can go from being an elite coach to an elite manager.
Despite the clubs’ difficulties on and off the field, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been an influential presence for the Gooners having scored 20 goals in the Premier League this season. What position do you believe Arsenal would be now if it wasn’t for the Gabonese Striker?
Oh man, such a tough question. He’s decisive like no other in our team. I think what has impressed Arsenal fans so much is that his game has developed under Arteta. He does more for the team. He’s playing out on the left to give balance to the side, and he’s still scoring goals. He’s an electric character to have in the team. We’d be in trouble without him there, so it’s vital we keep him beyond this summer.
Looking at Aston Villa’s squad, which players do you believe could cause Arsenal problems during this fixture?
Arsenal fans love Jack Grealish. There’s a bit of peak Jack Wilshere when you watch him. The way he glides around the pitch, his low socks, his general swagger. What we’d do to have his sort of midfield creativity at Arsenal. We also like McGinn. His power and dogged attitude on the pitch is something that gives you an extra edge in tight games. I’m really interested to see how he does next season. Another honourable mention, Tyrone Mings looks a talent, a smart player, good on the ground, and very aggressive. There’s a lot of talent at Villa, it’s such a shame it hasn’t worked out this year.
Regarding this upcoming fixture between Arsenal and Aston Villa, what formation and tactics do you believe Arteta will deploy against Dean Smith’s side? What are your predictions for this encounter?
Oof, so hard to predict. We’ve generally played 3 at the back and tailored the execution of that around whatever we’re facing. A key component of our game will be to nullify your creativity, so stopping Grealish being Grealish. I would also imagine that we’ll come to play. We’ll use the pace of our front three to break you down. I think there will be large changes because we’re coming off the back of a beastly week of draining games. Despite the wins and the newfound focus, there’s always a Brighton moment in us, so no one will be counting their chickens.
Finally what are your predictions for this Premier League fixture and where do you believe Aston Villa and Arsenal will finish in the table come the end of the season?
I’d like to predict a 2-1 victory for Arsenal. I think we’ll finish 8th.
Regarding Aston Villa’s team news against Arsenal, I believe that this is the most suitable team to field:
Reina; Elmohamady, Konsa, Mings, Targett, McGinn, Douglas Luiz, Hourihane, Trézéguet, Davis, Grealish
I am currently in two states of mind. My head is telling me that Arsenal have won their last two fixtures in all competitions and will turn up at Villa Park radiating confidence. Despite my head predicting an Arsenal win, my heart is hoping for a Villa resurgence and for Smith’s side to at least gain a point from this fixture. Villa have played well during their last few matches and hopefully, the boys in claret and blue will be ready to fight for their place in the Premier League.