The promising form that suggested building after taking points at Old Trafford and Everton now suddenly feels a distant memory as Villa approach a less than straightforward Autumn fixture list.
Defeat to Wolves has the effect of adjusting our ambitions for a tricky Friday night game at The Emirates. If we had held out at Villa Park, we would arrive with the cushion of 13 points and a 9th place in the league. Instead, a haul of ten points from eight games becomes middling form.
As it stands, we will face an Arsenal side in the awkward position of seemingly in constant need of finding their next win. They are a shadow of their former selves, but dangerous for both their unpredictability and a now recurring weekly ritual of needing to lift themselves back towards the upper part of the division. One week they’re Champions League, the next, Championship…you know the drill.
Villa, in my view at least, are similarly some way through a transition into this ‘upper’ part of the league, albeit by way of incremental upgrades in personnel. Arsenal though feel in a state of constant adjustment, both in terms of establishing a cohesive squad, but also whilst pondering how they might realistically compete in an era of multi-billionaire owner investment.
Immediately, however, Villa have more straightforward issues to navigate.
Smith has been hampered by injuries and absenteeism, no doubt. However, team selection, formation and game management are coming increasingly in for fair scrutiny.
The destabilisation of a previously much improved defence, must be addressed.
The erratic supply line and mixed success of the Ings / Watkins partnership to date requires obvious review.
The match also offers an opportunity at 8pm on a Friday night for a spectacle. The likely return of Leon Bailey, unplayable during his cameo against Everton, gives genuine cause for optimism.
However, we daren’t perform as we did against Tottenham, lacklustre and ineffective. Nor dare we fail to learn from the mistakes for which we were ruthlessly punished to great embarassment last time out against Wolves.
Tonight’s fixture, and it’s result, will be a good barometer for our progress in the opening quarter of a what has already been a mixed Premier League season.
KEY MATCH FACTS
- Premier League: Villa 13th – Arsenal 12th
- Arsenal has 3 wins in their last 5, with no defeats.
- Villa has win 2 and lost 3 of the last 5 games.
- Villa have won all 3 previous meetings.
- Betting / Odds Overview: Villa are pricing around 3/1 for an away win tonight. You can get 5/2 the draw, with The Gunners around 10/11. If you’re thinking of placing a bet on the match there are plenty of free bets websites such a free-bets.uk.com where you can find offers and bonuses.
- Saka will have a late fitness test for the hosts.
- Granit Xhaka won’t feature for Arsenal.
- Bailey, Traore and Matty Cash are back for Villa.
- Davis and Trezeguet remain long term absentees.
- Villa have lost 5 of last 8 away games.
- But have beaten Arsenal 4 of last 10 at Emirates.