Arsenal aiming to leap into the top four with a win over fading Aston Villa
Arsenal to win 2-1
A couple of weeks can make the world of difference in the Premier League this season, with so many teams bunched so closely together.
Riding high off the back of winning their first five fixtures, back to back defeats have sent Aston Villa tumbling from 2nd in the league down to 8th, where they sit level on points with their opponents Arsenal.
It appears their bubble has somewhat burst, their early season confidence failing and teams working out how best to play against them.
Arsenal have been up and down this season, and while their win against Manchester United was impressive last weekend, it should not fool anyone that Arsenal are now the finished article.
They have a way to go in order to consistently break into the top four and challenge for silverware, though they will enter this match as favourites due to the quality throughout their team.
Form Guide (all comps): WLWWW
Reasons to be cheerful:
Europa League form has boosted their confidence
Win over Man United showed defensive improvement
Reasons to be fearful:
Three defeats in five league matches show much improvement is still needed
Aston Villa are a team who can spring a surprise
Arsenal have enjoyed a positive week.
After beating Manchester United in a morale-boosting victory, they further showed their quality in beating Molde in the Europa League.
Despite this, they will start this fixture potentially down in the lower half of the table, if teams below them win their fixtures. This is evidence of a mixed start to the season, winning important matches but also finding it tough in others.
Aubameyang, though scoring the winner last weekend, previously went five matches without scoring, and they seem to suffer from a lack of creativity in the final third.
They are certainly looking more solid at the back, conceding just five goals from their last eight matches. They are also boosted by the return of David Luiz from injury.
The Gunners are favourites here.
Star Man – Thomas Partey
Was absolutely terrific against United last weekend, breaking up the play while helping to kickstart attacks.
Form Guide (all comps): LWWLL
Reasons to be cheerful
Are scoring plenty despite losing last two
Their quick counter-attack style should work well against Arsenal
Reasons to be fearful
Bertrand Traore likely to miss out through injury
Conceded seven goals in last two matches
Manager Dean Smith will be somewhat concerned at how his side’s form has slipped so quickly since their opening run of wins.
To go from 2nd to 8th so quickly is a mark of how tight teams are at the top, but also shows how easily it is to lose ground if you’re not at your best.
If they fail to arrest their slip in form, they could find themselves further down the table before long.
This fixture may not be as one sided an affair as it would in previous seasons. Villa are a much better side going forward these days, the signing of Watkins up front adding to the existing quality of Grealish.
Conceding seven goals in their last two games is worrying, though Arsenal are not as creative going forward as in previous seasons.
If Villa can keep things tight at the back, they could have some joy.
Star Man – Jack Grealish
Came close to inspiring a comeback against Southampton with a goal and an assist.
Arsenal are favourites but need more going forward
Villa must tighten up defensively
Can Aubameyang score from open play?
Almost two teams of opposites: Arsenal improving at the back but lacking creativity going forward, Villa scoring plenty of goals but letting themselves down in defence.
At home, and with the quality they have, Arsenal will be favourites to claim three points here, but Villa can certainly spring a surprise if The Gunners are not at their best.
It’s likely both teams will score, so Arsenal will need to increase their output going forward to win this one.
Arsenal to win 2-1