By Nick Teale
 
Last season Aston Villa were Arsenal's main challengers in the battle for the Premier League's fourth place.
 
In the end, the Gunners finished 10 points ahead of Villa, who completed the campaign in sixth place. Once again this term they are in the hunt for Champions League qualification, with Tottenham, Liverpool and Manchester City also in the race.
 
But they haven't won in their last three Premier League games, a run kicked off by a 3-0 defeat to Arsenal on December 27. That game was level at half time, but a 27-minute match-winning cameo from substitute from Cesc Fabregas saw the Gunners to victory. And as Birmingham Evening Mail correspondent Mat Kendrick explains, Villa want to avenge that defeat.

FOCUS - IMPRESSIONS OF ARSENAL

IMPRESSIONS OF ARSENAL
"I think they'd certainly like to put the record straight from the game they lost 3-0 to Arsenal earlier in the season. I think they were disappointed with their second-half performance. I think they put a fairly good show in the first half, but then Cesc Fabregas came on and caused all the damage. Villa went into the game on the back of four League wins but since then they haven't won, so their Champions League challenge has stalled a little bit since that game at Emirates Stadium."

FOCUS - THE STORY SO FAR

THE STORY SO FAR
"I think the key to the battle for fourth place, from Villa's point of view, is getting it up and running again. A positive result tonight, be that a draw or a victory, would probably be what they need to kick-start things again. They have made it through to the Carling Cup Final and progressed in the FA Cup recently, so there is a good vibe around the club at the moment."

FOCUS - MAN OF THE MOMENT

KEY PLAYERS
"The theory around Villa Park at the moment is that the goals have dried up in the League. But they put six past Blackburn in the Carling Cup last week, and scored three against Brighton in the FA Cup at the weekend. I think Gabriel Agbonlahor has gone through a bit of a lean spell recently. He was the match winner at Emirates Stadium last season [when Villa won 2-0] and he's due another two or three goals any time soon. Since Stewart Downing has come into the team [on left midfield], that has opened up James Milner's potential in centre midfield. So they certainly have the players to hurt Arsenal if they can keep it tight at the back."

FOCUS - THE MAN IN CHARGE

THE MAN IN CHARGE
"I think fans of other clubs wouldn't mind him [Martin O'Neill] being their manager. He tested his love affair with Villa fans at the end of last season when the challenge fir the top four capitulated late on and when they effectively conceded the UEFA Cup by naming a weakened side. But delivering a first Cup Final in 10 years and taking them on the verge of something special has certainly restored his popularity."

FOCUS - REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL

REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL
"For the first time in a number of years Villa have got real quality, not only in the starting XI, but they have five or six players in reserve who could step in and do just as good a job. Last season it was all about away form, Villa could seemingly go anywhere and win, this season they have been hard to beat on the road but they have also made sure they have won the majority of matches at Villa Park, which they weren't doing last season."

FOCUS - SUMMER SPENDING

JANUARY SPENDING
"I don't think there will be too many arrivals. The manager has said in recent weeks that if he does want to boost the squad he will have to get rid of one or two of his fringe players to generate some money."

Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 27 Jan 2010