Arsenal v Aston Villa

Scouting Report - Aston Villa

Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.

Arsène Wenger's side host Aston Villa at Emirates Stadium on Sunday. To find out more, we asked tactical expert Michael Cox.


Aston Villa arrive at the Emirates in a very poor run of form, having failed to win any of their previous seven league matches - and during that period, they’ve scored just one goal.

Indeed, goalscoring has been a major problem for Paul Lambert’s side this season: they’ve scored the fewest in the entire Football League, and joint top scorers Andreas Weimann and Gabriel Agbonlahor have recorded just three apiece.

Gabriel Agbonlahor

Gabriel Agbonlahor


However, it’s worth considering that Villa boast the joint fifth-best defensive record in the league (alongside Arsenal) and are capable of frustrating opponents. Villa are likely to play on the counter-attack on Sunday - an approach that succeeded on the opening day of last season.

Lambert has played a variety of formations this season. A three-man defence was used over Christmas, and could be an option if Lambert wants to play even more defensively. A back four is probable, however.

Alan Hutton and Aly Cissokho have been regulars in the full-back positions, and concentrate on defending rather than pushing forward. In the middle, though, injuries means Lambert has struggled to get a regular partnership playing together: no central defender has started more than half of Villa’s league games. Ron Vlaar’s absence means Ciaran Clark and Jules Okore is the most probable combination.

Ron Vlaar

Ron Vlaar

The midfield will be anchored by Carlos Sanchez, a no-nonsense holding player who rarely advances into attack. Either side of him, Lambert gives two players license to shuttle forward: this will be two of Tom Cleverley, Fabian Delph and Leandro Bacuna. All three are hard-working and energetic, while Delph excels at transitions from defence to attack because of his dribbling skills.

Christian Benteke will spearhead the attack. A tall striker with tremendous aerial ability, he encourages Villa to play long balls and whip crosses into the box, although after a long injury lay-off he’s yet to return to his best form and needs to be supported with runners from deep positions.

Weimann and Agbonlahor are Lambert’s favoured counter-attacking players on the flanks, because of their ability to spring forward and get into goalscoring positions. Recent signing Carles Gil, who opened his account with a fine goal against Bournemouth in last weekend’s FA Cup victory, would be an alternative option, but might be better deployed as a supersub.

Carles Gil

Carles Gil

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