Last week witnessed Aston Villa playing and losing to a better team at their place. That happens and it’s not ideal, but it was nice to see Andriy Yarmolenko, a Ukrainian, score. Moving on to this week, Aston Villa take on Arsenal. Sitting in fourth in the table (Villa are currently ninth), the North London side had won five straight prior to losing 2-0 to Liverpool on Wednesday. The most recent matches prior to that 0-2 loss featured wins over Leicester City at home (2-0) and Watford on the road (3-2). Players to watch for are midfielders Bukayo Saka (Eight goals and five assists on the season), Thomas Partey (Two goals, one assist), Martin Odegaard (Five goals, three assists), and forward Alexander Lacazette (Four goals, seven assists).
The questions surrounding the Villa this week tend to center around a possible change in formation. It’s not unreasonable to suggest an adjustment to a 4-3-2-1 from the 4-4-2 diamond of recent success, with Emi Buendia returning to a starting spot while Danny Ings heads back to the bench. That being said, my gut feeling is to stick with the 4-4-2 diamond as it shored up the defense, kickstarted a modest win streak in the midst of a losing streak, and one loss to a better team isn’t a reason to panic. I get the compulsion to play Emi Buendia over Danny Ings, and I’ll readily admit I may be in the wrong, but I’d stick with the diamond and wait for the international break to mess with things. If I had to get weird, maybe play Philippe Coutinho to the left of Ollie Watkins and plug Buendia in at the 10 position.
On to the proposed team sheet, Emi Martinez will be reprising his role in the net, with Ashley Young (Lucas Digne is out with injury) to his left, Matty Cash to his right, and Tyrone Mings partnering with Calum Chambers at center-back. In midfield, look to see Douglas Luiz anchoring with Jacob Ramsey and John McGinn and Philippe Coutinho playing the 10. Danny Ings and Ollie Watkins should partner.
PREDICTION: I don’t have a great feel for this match. Prior to the most recent loss to Liverpool, the Gunners had won five in a row. However, this will also be the third match in nine days for Arsenal. They’re a better team, but they’re not that much better and they’re playing at Villa Park. It’s not quite the result I want, but it’s still a point, so look for a 2-2 draw.