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Players, formation & passing out from the back? What to expect from Arsenal vs Villa

A look ahead at Arsenal’s clash with Aston Villa including possible formations, who will start and whether Emery will continue playing out from the back

Arsenal take on Aston Villa this afternoon in a match the Gunners will be desperate to win. Arsenal dropped two points against Watford last Sunday after a second half collapse which led to a turning of the tide in regards to Unai Emery’s reign. For the first time in his premiership, fans voiced concerns regarding the lack of defensive progress and effort from the team with some bemoaning of Wenger 2.0. 

However, moods change quickly in football and after an impressive display against Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League, which Arsenal won 3-0, voices were quickly lowered. 

Arsenal’s win on Thursday was inspired by their academy. Joe Willock and Emile Smith-Rowe put in hard working performances, but it was 18 year-old Bukayo Sako who was the star of the show. The young winger bagged his first goal for the club with a lovely strike from outside the box and also picked up an assist. In spite of this, the chances of him retaining his starting spot will be slim with Pepe in line to return. Yet, Sako will be feeling confident and an appearance from the bench wouldn’t be surprising.  

Joe Willock is the most likely to start, having already featured frequently this season, however, competition is tough with Torreira, Ceballos, Guendouzi and a rested Mesut Ozil all eager to start. If Emery does trust one of the stars from Thursday it will be further testament to his desire to include the youth. 

Before the question of personal is posed, fans will focus on which formation Emery opts for. The manager has already selected three this season and seems adamant to adapt his team to the opposition. One thing’s for certain is he needs to find a way to sure up the defence. The midweek fixture may have brought a needed clean sheet, but the defending was in no way perfect. Options are somewhat limited in the back, so it will be in midfield where Emery will need reinforcements. 

Bukayo Saka Arsenal

There are numerous players and combinations to choose from. Xhaka seems certain to start, so it’s between Torreira, Guendouzi or Ceballos to sit next to him. It would seem to negative but not surprising to choose two defensive midfielders in a home game against a newly promoted side or Emery could opt for a 4-1-4-1. With Arsenal’s versatile players, the possibilities are truly endless. The expected formation will be 4-3-3, but at this point, no one can be certain of what Emery is thinking.  

Once the players and formation has been decided upon, there’s one final question which will define the number of Arsenal fan heart attacks this week. Will the Gunners religiously stick to their principle of passing out from goal kicks?

The tactic cost Arsenal massively last weekend but it was not the principle which concerned fans but the lack of variation. After two attempts it became apparent that Watford were drilled to cause trouble from goal kicks but Leno and co did nothing to relieve the pressure. 

In contrast, Emi Martinez was seen putting his foot through the ball on many occasions on Thursday.  Most likely the six yard goal kicks will continue, but should it cost Arsenal more points, there will be real uproar regarding the tactic. 

This game represents a real opportunity to get a much needed win after losing one and drawing two of their last three games but Aston Villa will not make it easy. The club has looked strong since their return to the Premier League and with John Terry in the dugout he’ll be drilling the players on ways to beat Arsenal. 

On this rainy Sunday in London the scene is set for a tough battle; it’s time for Emery to show his worth and Arsenal to prove their credentials. 

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