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Preview: Arsenal vs. Aston Villa - prediction, team news, lineups
22/10/2021 14:18:05

Arsenal will aim to extend their unbeaten Premier League run to six matches when they welcome Aston Villa to the Emirates Stadium on Friday night (8:00PM, 22 Oct).

The Gunners left it late to rescue a point against Crystal Palace on Monday night, while Villa were stunned by a late Wolverhampton Wanderers comeback in the West Midlands derby.

We say: Arsenal 1-1 Aston Villa

Many have questioned whether Arsenal have a clear game plan under Arteta, as Gooners did not see anything of the kind against Palace, while the potential absence of Saka will be a huge blow.

Villa are hardly in the best form either but will certainly take confidence from their three successive triumphs in this fixture, and we think the spoils will be shared in North London once again.

Match preview

Patrick Vieira's return to North London was so nearly a joyous affair for the Invincibles captain on Monday, as his Crystal Palace side dominated proceedings at the Emirates and struck through Christian Benteke and Odsonne Edouard after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's opener.

However, Alexandre Lacazette - who was Arsenal's brightest player in his 25-minute cameo - was on hand to smash home the equaliser with virtually the last kick of the game in a 2-2 draw, with Mikel Arteta's blushes being spared by the soon-to-be free agent.

While the Gunners have now gone unbeaten in five Premier League games and six across all competitions, the same old questions were asked once again following Monday's stalemate, which has left Arteta's side 12th in the rankings after eight matches.

Thierry Henry recently questioned whether his former club were heading in the right direction under Arteta, and the 228-goal striker's comments appear to have been justified, especially with Lacazette - restricted to substitute outings so far this season and seemingly set to leave in 2022 - providing the bright spark in the second period against Palace.

Arsenal have lost just one of their last six Premier League games at the Emirates, though - taking seven points from the last nine on offer at home - but they have suffered back-to-back defeats in their two most recent Friday fixtures without scoring a single goal.

A drab first half at Villa Park soon paled into insignificance during an explosive second 45 minutes between Dean Smith's side and Wolverhampton Wanderers, as Danny Ings and John McGinn's strikes seemed set to propel the hosts to a critical success.

However, Romain Saiss, Conor Coady and Ruben Neves's deflected free-kick - all in the final 10 minutes - saw Bruno Lage's side complete a remarkable turnaround at Villa Park to hand this week's visitors their second successive defeat in the Premier League.

The joy of thrashing Everton and getting one over Manchester United has since dissipated for Villa, who find themselves one point and one place below Arsenal in the rankings ahead of Friday's encounter after winning just two of their last six in the competition.

Smith's side have also lost three of their four top-flight away matches since the season kicked off and are yet to produce the results that their significant summer of spending may have promised, but Arsenal fans will need no reminding what happened the last time that Villa paid a visit to the Emirates.

Indeed, an Ollie Watkins-inspired Villa stormed to a 3-0 win in the capital back in November 2020, while a 1-0 triumph at Villa Park in February also represented their third win and clean sheet on the bounce against Arsenal after a previous run of seven consecutive defeats.

Team News

Arsenal continue to cope without Granit Xhaka for the next couple of months, while Bukayo Saka was taken off at half time against Palace after taking a nasty kick to the back of the leg from James McArthur, who was controversially only punished with a yellow card.

Saka was "very sore" after the game, Arteta conceded, so a spot has opened up for Lacazette to earn a deserved start this weekend, with Aubameyang potentially shifting out to the left while Nicolas Pepe continues on the right.

Thomas Partey, Martin Odegaard and Emile Smith Rowe could all hold their places in midfield if that is the case, with Albert Sambi Lokonga on the bench following his mistake for Palace's second after Partey lost the ball for Benteke's first on Monday.

Villa duo Emiliano Martinez and Douglas Luiz both made the first XI against Wolves despite returning late from South America, while Matty Cash was forced off with a dead leg but should be fine for the Emirates trip.

Doubts persist over attacking duo Leon Bailey and Bertrand Traore, though, while Morgan Sanson has returned to fitness to provide another option in midfield for Smith.

Villa have experienced plenty of joy with a four-man defence against Arsenal in the past and may be tempted to revert to that setup here, although Smith will be reluctant to break up the Ings-Watkins partnership up top.

Arsenal possible starting lineup:

Ramsdale; Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel, Tierney; Odegaard, Partey, Smith Rowe; Pepe, Lacazette, Aubameyang

Aston Villa possible starting lineup:

Martinez; Konsa, Mings, Hause; Cash, Luiz, Sanson, McGinn, Targett; Watkins, Ings

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