Match Preview: Aston Villa At Villa Park
Arsenal fans may still be upset with Tuesday’s Group D Champions League defeat against Borussia Dortmund. However, this coming Saturday’s league tilt against Aston Villa offers the Gunners a great chance to get our title credentials back on track. While not viewed as a contender in the EPL, Aston Villa have proven time and time again to be a pesky side. In recent seasons, they have taken top clubs down to the wire on several occasions, particularly early in the season. Take a look at Aston Villa’s 2013-14 league results at ESPN and you’ll recall early-season wins over Arsenal and Manchester City and tight, one-goal losses to Chelsea and Liverpool.
Thus far in the 2014-15 EPL campaign, Aston Villa is up to the same old tricks. The club is 3-1-0 in its opening four games—good for 10 points and second place in the league tables behind Chelsea. That early record includes two wins away from home, including this past weekend’s stingy 1-0 victory over Liverpool at Anfield. Simply put, while their form hasn’t been overwhelming by any means, Aston Villa is far from a pushover. In fact, with the Gunners already having played (and drawn) Everton and Man City, this is merely the latest in a series of tough early season matches. Nevertheless, Arsenal will get the chance this weekend for a strong early road win against a team higher up in the standings, as well as vengeance for 2013’s 3-1 loss. Saturday is a great early opportunity.
Before anyone gets too carried away with Aston Villa’s strong start, however, let’s make one important note: Arsenal remain the strong favourites, even playing at Villa Park. The latest odds on the Premier League at Betfair show Arsenal with 4/5 odds to win the match, and Aston Villa at just 4/1 (with the odds for a draw sitting at 14/5). These certainly don’t indicate that the oddsmakers believe an Aston Villa win or draw is completely out of reach. However, the odds disparity seems to be a respectful nod to Arsenal’s overall quality vs. Aston Villa’s surprisingly hot start. Still, when you factor in that Aston Villa is playing at home (which the oddsmakers have theoretically done before posting odds), this one could wind up being tight.
Beyond the opportunity in the standings, the chance for vengeance, and the odds on the match, there’s a great deal for Arsenal supporters to be excited about on the field this coming Saturday. To begin with, the game at Villa Park will be Danny Welbeck’s second league appearance for the Gunners. Although the most memorable highlight of his debut against Man City was his first half chip shot that hit the post, Welbeck got off to a strong start overall. There’s also the fact that this past weekend’s 2-2 draw with Man City, though frustrating in that it could nearly have been a win, brought encouraging goals from Jack Wilshere and Alexis Sanchez. Daily Mail posted a brief video in which Arsene Wenger discussed Welbeck’s debut and basically stated that he was pleased, but that Welbeck would have to continue to learn to play with his new teammates.
That sentiment can be expanded to include the entire midfield and attack. What we’ve seen early this season is a more talented overall attacking unit with individual pieces showing flashes of very strong play. Once the likes of Welbeck, Wilshere and Sanchez — along with Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud, and Aaron Ramsey — are more familiar with one another, we could have a very deadly offensive club this season. Saturday will be another fascinating step in this unit’s journey to come together.
Of course, there’s some bad news ahead of the next league match as well. Namely, Matheiu Debuchy is going to miss significant time, which makes the already thin defence even weaker for the next few months. Calum Chambers likely gets the start at right back on Saturday, but for the time being we may simply be hoping to outscore opponents more than actually hold them off.
All things considered, the Aston Villa match should bring about some exciting football. Also, it will give the Gunners a chance to make a nice statement. Our prediction: Arsenal 3-2.