The Gunners come into Sunday’s fixture full of confidence, after their impressive performance at Old Trafford was followed up with a convincing 4-1 win over Molde in the Europa League on Thursday night.
Arteta will be hoping his players can execute his game-plan as effectively as they did against United, as their organised and versatile approach allowed them to control the game throughout, ending their woes on the road against the top 6.
Arsenal currently have the best defensive record in the Premier League, averaging 1 goal conceded per game in their opening 7 matches, which is a testament to the remarkable job Arteta has done to improve the spine of the team.
The hosts currently sit in 9th place on 12 points, having endured an inconsistent start to the season, however considering the fact they have played arguably the two hardest games of the season it will breed optimism for the weeks ahead.
On the other hand, Dean Smith will be delighted with the way his side have started the campaign, as their shrewd summer signings have settled quickly and contributed to their recent upturn in results.
The visitors have adopted a ruthless edge in front of goal this season, scoring 15 goals in their 6 league games so far and will look to improve on this against Arsenal’s resolute defence.
Last time out, Vila narrowly lost to high flying Southampton 4-3 in a result which saw them end up in 8th place, level on points with the Gunners having played a game less.
Arsenal’s form last 5 games: W, L, W, W, W
Aston Villa’s form last 5 games: L, W, W, L, L
Arsenal are likely to deploy their favoured formation which sees them setup in a 3-4-3 out of possession, then a 4-3-3 when on the attack. This hybrid formation allows Arsenal to be compact when defending, then create overloads down the wings when attacking.
In order to use such a fluid formation it requires versatile players, who need to be capable of playing two different positions in and out of possession. For Arsenal these two are Tierney and Saka, as when defending the Scotsman plays LCB/LB and the Englishman plays LWB/LCM.
As a result, when the Gunners are on the attack, it allows Tierney to push forward to play in his preferred left-back role which benefits the team due to his accurate crossing ability.
It then gives Saka multiple different options to add unpredictability to our build-up, as he has the option to either create on overload with Tierney down the left, drop into the hole and link the play to the front-three or hit the box to get on the end of crosses coming into the box.
In possession, Bukayo Saka main task is to link the midfield to the front-three, as at times this season our attacking talent haven’t been able to effect games in the way they should due to a lack of service.
However, the 19-year-olds understanding of this role is growing after each game and as a result the team are gradually starting to see improvements in this aspect of their game.
As the home team, the onus will be put on Arsenal to break down the visitors, as Villa will most likely sit with a deep block and look to counter quickly in possession. Having struggled for goals in recent weeks, Arteta’s side will need to be patient in order to break them down.
Villa will look to entice Arsenal onto them as they stay compact in their usual 4-5-1 formation, therefore it will be up to the Gunners attacking talent to draw their defence out and capitalise on any space given in the final third.
As you can see by the image below, Villa like to sit narrow when defending, as the full-backs tuck in to restrict the spaces in the middle of the park while one of the central midfielders screens the centre-backs in order to nullify the opposition playing a pass into the feet of their striker.
Therefore, it will be key for the home side to have runners in behind in wide areas and utilise the spaces, while also getting players into the box in order to finish off any cut-backs.
Glimpses of better movement were shown against United, as Willian and Lacazette looked to drop deeper to receive the ball to feet and link up the play while others made runs in behind.
However, Villa are likely to sit slightly deeper than United, so it will be crucial to move the ball faster in the build up and show more variety in attack. At times, Arteta’s side are guilty of not getting shots off in dangerous positions, especially when it opens up from the edge of the area.
Long-range efforts could be pivotal in this fixture, due to it drawing the opposition out and forcing them to play with a higher line. As a result, it should afford our players with more space to exploit in behind, as the opposition midfield and defence are more likely to put pressure on the ball.
In the game last season at the Emirates, Villa looked to work the ball out wide quickly and were able to cause Arsenal problems by putting early crosses in, while the midfielders made late runs into the box.
The Lions may look to play with similar tactics in this one, as it suits their expected approach of direct counter-attacking football. However, this time around, Smith’s side may not find this style as effective due to Arsenal’s more organised defensive structure and could be tempted to play passes over the top in behind for Watkins, especially if the home side play with a high line.
Arsenal’s new £45 million pound signing will be key, as his relentless energy in midfield will help to stop any Villa counter-attacks and ensure they control the tempo of the game.
The Ghanian’s powerful runs through the middle will help to break the lines, an aspect of his game we saw in abundance last time out as he was able to drive Arsenal up the pitch.
Not only this, but when on the ball Partey’s desire to always pass forward and be progressive is very noticeable, adding a different dimension to Arsenal’s other midfielders.
The 27-year-olds ability to turn defence into attack could also prove to be an effective attribute, as Arsenal will look to catch Villa in the transition.
However, the Gunners will have to be aware of the threat Villa pose at the other end, as they have a number of attacking players in form, who can hurt teams on the counter.
Last time out, Jack Grealish scored and assisted in Villa’s 4-3 loss to Southampton. The English international has been in fine form this season and is at the heart of everything going forward in Dean Smith’s side.
Arsenal team news: David Luiz made his return to the first team on Thursday night, following a thigh problem which kept him out of the previous two games. Arteta will also be without Gabriel Martinelli, Pablo Mari and Callum Chambers.
Aston Villa team news: New signing Bertrand Traore will miss out with a thigh strain, while long term injuries to Tom Heaton and Wesley will also keep them out of the clash in North London.
I’m a 20 year-old Arsenal fanatic and aspiring Sports Journalist, who will be studying how to write about the Beautiful Game at Solent University from September in an attempt to make my dream into a reality.
Since the age of 8 I have played academy football, but unfortunately it didn’t quite work out – therefore I decided to pursue the next best career for me.
I am aiming to write honest and interesting articles about the club I love, and to share my opinion (one from the younger generation of Arsenal supporters) with as many other fans as possible!