Arsenal face Aston Villa in the Premier League at Villa Park on Saturday evening.

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BAC TO BUSINESS - SAGNA'S KEY ROLE

Sagna chalkboard/heatmap

(Successful passes - green, unsuccessful passes/
crosses - red, key passes - yellow)

The return of Bacary Sagna to the Arsenal first team may not have been received with the same fanfare as that of Jack Wilshere, but he has been just as influential. The 29-year-old has broken his leg twice in the space of 12 months, but has still managed to slot seamlessly back into the Gunners backline as if he had never been away. And nowhere was that more evident than against Tottenham last weekend.

Facing a lively Gareth Bale, Sagna did not neglect his defensive duties but still managed to provide a real attacking outlet for his side on the right flank. As our chalkboard and heatmap above indicate, the France international was highly influential in the final third of the pitch, constantly charging down the right past Theo Walcott on the overlap. This in turn helped press back 10-man Tottenham and the dangerous Bale, as the Gunners eventually ran out convncing 5-2 winners.

On Saturday, Sagna will come up against another pacy opponent in Gabriel Agbonlahor - but if his derby performance is anything to go by, it is a challenge he will relish.

STRIKING SIMILARITIES - GIROUD v BENTEKE

Giroud v Benteke

Two of the newest strikers in the Premier League will go head to head at Villa Park, with Olivier Giroud and Christian Benteke spearheading their respective side's attacks. Both have made an impression with their physical attributes so far this term, causing similar problems with their height and power.

Villa forward Benteke stands at 6ft 4in, like Giroud, and has proved to be a real handful. The Belgian international's link-up play has been especially promising, and he has made more passes than Giroud this term (246 to 198) and has a marginally superior success rate of 67.9 per cent to 62.6 per cent. The 21-year-old has also won slightly more of his aeriel duels (56 per cent to 53.2 per cent) as he has introduced himself to Premier League defenders.

Strikers are ultimately judged on goals though, and Giroud has four top-flight goals to Benteke's two, and scores on average every 199.5 minutes (compared to every 308 minutes for his rival). The 26-year-old has also been more accurate with his shots on goal and, with five goals in his past six games, will fancy his chances of adding to his tally at Villa Park.

So keep an eye on these two strikers on Saturday - they are likely to be central to each side's hopes of victory.

ARSENAL v ASTON VILLA - FACTS

  • Aston Villa have won none of their last 13 Premier League home games against Arsenal (D6 L7)
  • There has been a goal scored in the 87th minute or later in seven of the last nine Premier League games between Arsenal and Villa
  • Darren Bent has scored six goals in his last eight Premier League games against Arsenal and in his only FA Cup appearance against them last season for Villa
  • Abou Diaby has scored four goals in six Premier League games against Villa; more than against any other opponent in the competition
  • The Villans have won only two of their last 18 home games in the Premier League (W2 D7 L9)
  • The Gunners had lost just one of their previous 12 Premier League away games (W7 D4 L1) before losing their last two on the road against Norwich and Man Utd
  • The only top-flight season in which Villa have had fewer points after 12 games than this season is 1964-65 (adjusted for three points for a win)
  • Arsenal's last two Premier League games have produced a total of 13 goals
  • Both teams have scored in seven of Arsenal's last nine Premier League games
  • Only Barcelona's Xavi (1152) has made more passes than Mikel Arteta (1104) in Europe's big five leagues this season

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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 23 Nov 2012