Arsenal play Aston Villa Sunday morning at Villa Park. Their last meeting took place in the FA Cup Final of which Arsenal came out 4-0 winners.
Arsenal is on the back of one of their more impressive victories in Europe. The 3-0 win against Olympiakos on Wednesday saw them progress to the Champions League Round of 16. They now face the prospect of playing Wolfsburg, Zenit St. Petersburg, Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, or Barcelona in the following round. The draw will take place on Monday.
Arsenal won’t be looking that far ahead though and their attention will be directed toward Aston Villa.
Arsene Wenger spoke to the press and revealed that there is no new team news to be reported. All the players came through the week unscathed and we can expect to see the likes of Tomas Rosicky and Jack Wilshere feature after Christmas or more likely towards the end of January.
The manager revealed that between Alexis and Mikel Arteta, the Chilean is closest to returning to the first team, although no firm return date has been given for either player.
The manager may consider rotating his squad after a rigorous week. However, Arsenal will have eight days of rest in between this weekend’s match and their next match, which takes place on Monday against Manchester City.
This is an important match for the Gunners to win as it will see them take a three match winning streak to the Emirates next Monday.
Arsenal suffered a bleak run of form immediately after the international break and a third straight win would build momentum and see the squad in a confident mood with a weeks worth of training ahead of them.
Here is Arsenal’s most probable starting lineup on Sunday.
Goalkeeper – Cech
Petr Cech put in another quality display on Wednesday and his calming presence is expected on Sunday.
Right Back – Bellerin
The manager may be tempted to give Hector Bellerin a rest considering the youngster has not quite looked himself since mid-November.
Mathieu Debuchy’s chances of playing more regularly were not helped by an ill-advised radio interview he gave in France last week.
Bellerin was not at his best on Wednesday, but his performance was improved compared to recent matches, especially defensively. Wenger will likely persist with Bellerin, allowing the Spaniard to regain his form.
Center backs – Mertesacker & Koscielny
Pert Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny will continue their partnership, and like Cech, will provide a calming presence on Sunday. Gabriel will get his chance again in the coming Christmas season.
Left Back – Monreal
Wenger may look to rest Nacho Monreal in this match, allowing Kieran Gibbs a run out. However, it’s more likely than not that the manager continues with his first choice back four.
Defensive Mid – Flamini
Mathieu Flamini put in an excellent display on Wednesday. He was flying all over the pitch making tackles and committing fouls. That is exactly what you expect and need from Flamini.
He lacks the distribution abilities of Francis Coquelin, but he makes up for it through tenacity and effort. If Flamini can maintain this for the next few weeks, Arsenal will be in a good position when Coquelin returns in March.
Calum Chambers will get a run out in defensive mid at some point in the next few weeks as Flamini cannot manage to play the full 90-minutes twice a week for consecutive weeks.
Central Mid – Ramsey
Aaron Ramsey claimed another assist on Wednesday and has played well since returning to center midfield. If Ramsey continues his form, Santi Cazorla will have a real fight on his hands to regain a place in the starting eleven.
Attacking Mid – Özil
Mesut Özil almost missed Wednesday’s match with a slight calf strain. Wenger did not report any new and exacerbated problems with Özil’s calf, and the German playmaker should be set to go.
Özil had three excellent performances last season against Aston Villa and considering his current form another quality performance is expected.
Wide Right – Walcott
Wenger played Theo Walcott on the right Wednesday to provide another goal scoring threat. Arsenal needed goals and Walcott can score them. He should retain his place in the squad, partly because of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s poor form.
Olivier Giroud will need a rest soon, which will provide Walcott the opportunity to play striker once again.
Wenger acknowledged that Walcott and Giroud would need to be rotated because his strikers must stay fresh. He did not rule out the possibility of playing the two together more often, although much of that depends on the health of Alexis.
Wide Left – Campbell
Joel Campbell had another excellent night in the Champions League and he received a standing ovation from the away supporters and the home crowed, for whom he played for a season a year and a half ago.
His foot trickery allowed him to thread the needle with an excellent pass that set up Giroud for Arsenal’s all-important second goal.
Campbell could be the perfect player to rebalance the midfield in the absence of Coquelin and Cazorla. His strong work ethic sees him get up and down the field often and he rarely neglects his defensive duties. This allows Ramsey to charge up the field with the knowledge that Campbell will likely back track quickly.
He’s not perfect, nor is he going to be a consistent starter once certain injured player’s return. However, he has proven to be a very useful squad player.
Striker – Giroud
Giroud arguably had one of his best performances in an Arsenal shirt on Wednesday. His hat trick on the night was his first for the club and it couldn’t have come at a more important time.
Wenger may be tempted to rest Giroud ahead of the Manchester City match next week. This would allow Walcott a run out at striker. But after Giroud’s performance on Wednesday, it’s difficult to imagine the boss sitting the French international.
Via – Lineup Builder