Arsenal are in the midst of their first major wobble of the Premier League campaign and with their title charge starting to slow, the Gunners trudge to the Midlands this afternoon to face an Aston Villa outfit led by their old manager, Unai Emery.
Both the Villains and Arsenal lost 3-1 to Manchester City in their last assignments, though the latter’s loss to the champions felt infinitely more significant. Mikel Arteta’s challengers need to steady the ship quickly, however, Unai Emery will be determined to mastermind a victory over his former employers.
You know the drill by now – I’ve compiled my stats pack for today’s contest below which should arm you with enough info to pack your bet builder coupons with savvy selections. Use my Stats Pack Guide as a companion to the data below for better bet builder results.
Diego Carlos is inching his way back to fitness, though the Brazilian defender isn’t to be involved today. Fellow centre-half Tyrone Mings was considered a doubt but starts over former Arsenal man Calum Chambers.
Villa have been using a 4-4-2 formation with a narrow midfield under Emery, though they conceded seven times in their last two league games and the Spanish tactician might try to switch things up this afternoon. Emi Buendia may drop deeper into more of a 4-2-3-1 and match up to Arsenal, with Coutinho and McGinn on the wings.
Thomas Partey was a notable absentee for Arsenal in their defeat to Man City on Wednesday and the Ghanaian is unable to return to the Gunners’ midfield today and so Jorginho deputises.
Ben White wins back his starting spot ahead of Takehiro Tomiyasu at right back after his fatal pass back against City.
The big change is January signing Leandro Trossard makes his first Premier League start for the club as he replaces a somewhat out of form Gabriel Martinelli.
Aston Villa have been hitting all the peaks and troughs you’d expect from a mid-table outfit and they’ve won three, lost three and drawn one of their seven Premier League fixtures since Christmas.
Only six teams have been mustering fewer shots per 90 than the Villians, however, and while they have been generally half-decent defensively under Emery, eyebrows were raised after they shipped seven goals in their last two games. Only a handful of teams have collected more cards than Villa so far this term.
Arsenal had been posting superb figures across several metrics this season, though their output has been tailing off in a number of directions more recently. The Gunners have dropped points in four of their last six league games and they lost the xG battle in each of their last three top flight tests.
Mikel Arteta’s hasn’t been big on rotation this term and eight of his players have started 21 or more of Arsenal’s 22 Premier League fixtures since August. Could burnout be a factor?
The Gunners won just one corner against City on Wednesday, though they rarely seem overly fussed about winning many of those particular set-pieces. Five teams have won more corners than Arsenal this term.
Player Shots and Shots on Target
Ollie Watkins and Leon Bailey are developing decent chemistry as a front pair under Unai Emery and between them, they managed to clock 17 shots Villa’s last three Premier League matches, with six of those efforts proving accurate.
Watkins and Bailey are both excellent on the counter attack and they represent excellent value at 4/6 and 6/5 respectively to lodge at least one shot on target each against Arsenal later today.
Arsenal’s fab front four of Odegaard, Martinelli, Saka and Nketiah weren’t quite at it on Wednesday against City, though four chances did fall Nketiah’s way even if he was frustratingly wasteful with them.
In fact, of the eight attempts Nketiah has mustered in his last four appearances, zero hit the target. Bukayo Saka hit Arsenal’s only accurate shot in midweek, though that strike on target was delivered from the penalty spot.
Gabriel Martinelli was unable to make an impact on Wednesday, though Villa struggled to contain the Brazilian when they last played Arsenal in August. Martinelli had two shots on target that day and he can be backed at 8/15 to post just one against the Villains today.
Player Goals and Assists
Ollie Watkins has scored in each of his last three Premier League appearances for Villa and four of his six goals for the campaign overall have arrived since Boxing Day. The 27-year-old has also notched three times against Arsenal since 2020 and Watkins is keenly priced at 11/4 to impact the scoresheet again today.
Douglas Luiz is Villa’s leading goal-creator in 2022/23 and two of the Brazilian’s five assists for the season were posted in his three appearances (vs Southampton & Man City). Luiz is available at 17/2 to lay on another goal for a teammate this afternoon.
The goals have dried up for Arsenal of late and the Gunners managed to find the net just twice in their last four fixtures in league and cup combined. Nevertheless, you don’t need to dig too deep to find their likeliest goal-getting candidates today.
Any member of their fearsome front four would be a decent addition to your coupon, though I like Martin Odegaard to either score or assist at 6/5 today. The Norwegian is something of an away-day specialist and six of his eight goals this season were dispatched in matches on the road for the Gunners.
Aston Villa enjoyed the lion’s share of possession in four straight Premier League fixtures before they faced Man City last time out. The Villains saw just 33% of the ball against the champions and they could struggle in that department again today.
Douglas Luiz (51.2) and Boubacar Kamara (50.8) have been topping the individual passes charts at the club and either holding midfielder could be worth leaning on to deliver 50+ passes again today.
Not many teams get the better of Man City when it comes to possession, however, to their credit, Arsenal controlled a whopping 63.5% of the ball against the Citzyens, and they should find it even easier to dictate the tempo against Villa.
William Saliba was the Gunners’ chief move-conductor from the back in midweek and the French defender played 83 passes against City. The 21-year-old looks a snip at 4/6 to beat a 70-pass target this afternoon – something he’s already achieved eight times in the Premier League this term.
Aston Villa Cards
Leon Bailey is a pressing machine with a petulant streak and the Jamaican has already been carded four times this term. The 25-year-old’s aggression is usually heightened for bigger games and Bailey is of interest to be carded again at 7/2 today.
In midfield, Jacob Ramsey and Boubacar Kamara will be trying to put the squeeze on their Arsenal counterparts. Ramsey and Kamara committed two and three fouls respectively when Villa played the Gunners at The Emirates Stadium in the campaign’s early exchanges. Ramsey could be a decent coupon filler at 1/3 to commit one indiscretion today, while Kamara looks a strong option at 4/6 to give two or more fouls away again.
The three most attack-minded players in Arsenal’s XI feature heavily in the Gunners’ list of most-fouled players in 2022/23, however, I’m looking back down the pitch today, where the options look tastier.
Centre-half Gabriel is often in the wars and the Brazilian should have his wits tested by the combative Leon Bailey later on. Granit Xhaka should operate in the same spaces at Jacob Ramsey, where more friction should occur, while Martin Odegaard could be on foul-merchant Boubacar Kamara’s radar.
Match-Ups to watch
Leon Bailey vs Gabriel
Jacob Ramsey vs Granit Xhaka
Boubacar Kamara vs Martin Odegaard
Bukayo Saka has a real edge to his game, as evidenced by his high fouls per 90 figure (1.14) and notable card count (four). Saka works tirelessly to close his fullback down out of possession, though the timing of his tackles can sometimes be loose. Saka is available at 4/9 to commit just a single foul today.
William Saliba has matched Saka for cards accrued this term and the Frenchman will be under special instruction to keep right on top of the in-form Ollie Watkins this afternoon. Saliba was booked against Villa in August and he is available at 4/1 to see yellow again today. Elsewhere, Ben White might be drawn into some awkward positions by the drifting Emiliano Buendia. White is 2/9 to commit one foul and 11/10 to draw the ref’s intervention at least twice.
Lucas Digne provides thrust from deep down the Villa left, though the Frenchman is often fouled during his surges forward. Digne has been fouled 1.54 times per 90 in the Premier League this season, so watch out for his tussles with Bukayo Saka.
Only four Villa players have been fouled more often in total than Ollie Watkins (21 times) this term, and the red-hot frontman’s movement should put William Saliba on edge. Emiliano Buendia has also been halted in his tracks illegally 21 times in 2022/23 and the clever Argentinean will be hoping to work some fouls out of Ben White later on.
Match-Ups to watch
Bukayo Saka vs Lucas Digne
William Saliba vs Ollie Watkins
Ben White vs Emiliano Buendia
My bet builder picks of the pack
With the help of my stats pack above, I’ve put together some bet builder selections that are worth your attention this evening.
Aston Villa vs Arsenal
He’s averaged 1.34 shots on target P/90 this season thus far for Arsenal, with 10 in his 8 starts since returning to Premier League action following the World Cup.
He’s registered an effort on target in 5 of his last 8.
Aston Villa are conceding 3.86 shots on target P/90, and recently, that number has increased.
They’ve conceded 26 shots on target in their last 5, conceding a minimum of 3 in all 5 games.
Arsenal average 5.50 corners P/90 and have hit this total in 4 of their last 6, the two exceptions beng games against Man City and Tottenham.
Aston Villa concede 5.32 corners P/90. They’ve conceded 24 in total in the last 4 premier league outings.
Wide men Martinelli and Saka should help contribute to this selection. The young wingers average 4.35 and 3.95 dribbles P/90 respectively, and should force corners out of their opponents.
John McGinn commits 1.44 fouls P/90.
On the wing against Bukayo Saka, who draws 1.76 fouls p/90.
Aston Villa receive 2.19 cards P/90 to Arsenal’s 1.64.
They draw just 1.87 cardsP/90. Arsenal’s opponnts by comparison, receive 2.46 cards P/90.
Arsenal have received less cards than their opponent in each of their last 11.