Aston Villa welcome Arsenal to Villa Park for their early Premier League clash on Saturday. Mikel Arteta watched on as the Gunners’ seven-game unbeaten run came to an abrupt halt against Wolves at Molinuex on Tuesday. While the north London side will be without the suspended David Luiz and Bernd Leno, Arteta will be hoping for his side to bounce back in style – particularly against an Aston Villa team that thumped Arsenal 3-1 at the Emirates back in November.
On that night, Dean Smith’s team showcased their excellent young English talent in Ross Barkley, Jack Grealish and Ollie Watkins, where the former-Brentford striker scored twice. While their first half of the season was surprisingly impressive – helped by that win in north London – Villa have won just two of their last seven league games, and they suffered a 3-1 home defeat to West Ham on Wednesday.
Arsenal have their own English youngsters to rely on, with the likes of Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka becoming lifting the Gunners from their dismal form of November to December. They can move above Villa in the table with a win. Follow all the latest updates below:
The players take a knee, and Arsenal get us underway.
The players are out at Villa Park. Almost time for the first game of another busy day of Premier League football…
HOW IT STANDS
Just one point separates Villa and Arsenal in the Premier League standings, though the home side have two games in hand. They sit ninth, on 32 points, while Arsenal are a place behind after their recent resurgence.
WILLIAN HAS NOTHING TO PROVE
JACK GREALISH SPEAKS TO BT SPORT
“At the start of this season I just wanted to get better goal involvements, and I’ve done that already. The main thing is I just want to get in the England team, I just think about it all the time. But there’s so many brilliant players in the attacking areas. I’m just desperate to go to the Euros. I pray that I can carry on performing and impressing the manager. Fingers crossed.”
Villa were dominant when these two sides met at the Emirates in November. A brace from Ollie Watkins and a Saka own goal gave the visitors a 0-3 win that gave a true indication of Villa’s progress under Dean Smith. Martinez also secured a memorable clean sheet against the club he had left only a couple of months earlier.
ARSENAL BOSS MIKEL ARTETA SPEAKS TO BT SPORT
“The players that played against Wolves deserve another chance today, so that’s why I stick with them. But it’s been a very hard decision [to leave out Aubameyang].”
VILLA BOSS DEAN SMITH SPEAKS TO BT SPORT
“People keep talking about a bad run of results, but we’ve won two of the last four so it’s not that bad. We feel we’re okay. We didn’t play well on Wednesday night and it was a disappointing result, but we usually bounce back.”
EMI MARTINEZ SPEAKS TO BT SPORT
“I truly believe that every keeper has a different past. Mine was a bit dodgy, but it made me the keeper I am today. I talked to Arsene Wenger and he told me I was gonna be the number one, so I was going on loan and thinking I’d come back and be the number one. Arteta told me: ‘If that’s your decision you can go, but I really don’t want you to go’. [On Villa move] I always believed we could fight for Europe I didn’t come here just to stay up in the league and go on holidays.”