Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger's side take on Borussia Dortmund in their Champions League opener on Tuesday. To find out more we asked tactical expert Michael Cox.
Aston Villa have caused Arsenal problems recently, despite the fact they spent much of the last two campaigns battling relegation.
Considering Paul Lambert’s side have made an excellent start to 2014/15, sitting second in the league after four matches, this is likely to be another tough match.
"They often press well, allowing the opposition defence time on the ball, before springing into action when the ball is passed into the midfield zone"
Whereas Lambert changed his starting XI regularly last season, there’s a familiar feel to Villa this season. Nine players have started all four matches, although the recent signing of Tom Cleverley has created a new blend to the midfield.
It’s that midfield zone where Villa are most intelligent tactically. They often press well, allowing the opposition defence time on the ball, before springing into action when the ball is passed into the midfield zone - something they did excellently in this fixture two seasons ago, a goalless draw where Villa could have snatched all three points.
Cleverley should play alongside Fabian Delph, who recently made his first England start. Delph is excellent at turning defence into attack smoothly towards the left with a clever turn and a burst of pace, not unlike Jack Wilshere.
Delph performed well against Arsenal at Villa Park last year, with the position of his recoveries (yellow), dribbles (green) and his key pass showcasing his style nicely.
Ashley Westwood, meanwhile, will sit behind and act as the chief ball-winner. In this game last year, he made a succession of recoveries across the middle third of the pitch (see graphic below).
Up front, Villa can be highly dangerous on the break.
Kieran Richardson has played on the left, connecting midfield and attack, but it’s the pace of Gabriel Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann that will cause problems.
They’ve broken speedily against the Gunners in recent years, and if Arsenal’s full backs advance when in possession, those two will have opportunities to counter.
Villa coped well without captain Ron Vlaar last weekend, with Nathan Baker turning in a fine performance alongside ex-Arsenal defender Philippe Senderos. Both can dive into tackles, however, which could be a problem for Villa if Arsenal put together neat passing moves on the edge of the box.
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