We go looking for our fifth straight win at the start of the season for only the fourth time in our history when Aston Villa head to north London, in a fixture that usually guarantees three goals.
Each of the last 10 league games between us and the Villans at Emirates Stadium has produced at least that number, but Villa have proven they enjoy playing on our turf, with only Chelsea and Manchester City winning more times than Villa’s four triumphs.
But having lost against West Ham United on Sunday, Steven Gerrard’s side have taken just three points from their opening four games as they search for the spark to ignite their season.
Tough times for Gerrard
Having added Diego Carlos, Boubacar Kamara and the permanent capture of Philippe Coutinho to his squad this summer, hopes were high in the claret half of Birmingham that Gerrard would easily improve on a 14th-place finish last term, but so far things haven’t gone to plan.
Off the pitch, he saw his highly-renowned assistant Michael Beale depart for QPR in the summer and a bold call to strip Tyrone Mings of the captaincy on the eve of the season has divided opinion.
A ruptured Achillies for Carlos took the shine off their single victory this term, a 2-1 home win against Everton, with the £26 million defender now likely to miss six months. Just as worrying was a poor opening day defeat at Bournemouth, and a 3-1 loss against Crystal Palace which leaves Gerrard having won just three of his last 15 league games in charge.
What the managers say
Arteta on Villa: “I watch the Premier League teams and know how physical they are. Every game here is a battle for everybody, and we don't expect anything different. Villa are a top team, they have a big squad, top quality players and a good manager, and we expect a difficult game again here on Wednesday
“Since we played each other they haven't changed that much. We’ll play towards the games and prepare as well as possible, but they’re a really physical team with a lot of presence, who are really good at using the box and it will be tough.” - more from Arteta about the game
Gerrard on us: “Arsenal were in this situation themselves 12 months ago when they didn’t start the season very well. They’ve started this season very well and they’ve got a top manager and top players. They’ve had an opportunity to build a really exciting team there.
“We’ll focus on trying to get the right result. They’ve started with a 100 per cent record but for me, that’s a fantastic opportunity and a big challenge for me and my players to go and try to ruin that.”
Arteta expects to be without Oleksandr Zinchenko and Thomas Partey after the pair missed Saturday’s 2-1 win against Fulham with knee and thigh issues respectively. Reiss Nelson is also out with a muscle issue.
Coutinho limped off against West Ham at the weekend but Gerrard has suggested it was mainly cramp and fatigue and should have his playmaker available.
Mings missed the game through illness and remains touch-and-go whether he’ll feature, while young attacker Cameron Archer has a hip injury and joins Carlos on the sidelines.
Michael Cox writing in the official matchday programme: Upon taking charge in November last year, Gerrard quickly installed a system that involved full backs energetically overlapping to form a front five with the attacking trio, leaving a solid midfield three protecting the two centre backs.
But there’s variety in Gerrard’s approach, particularly in terms of the front three. Sometimes it’s a trio offering natural width, sometimes it’s one playmaker behind two strikers, and sometimes it’s two playmakers between one striker.
Width can be provided by Leon Bailey, while the invention comes from Philippe Coutinho, The diminutive Emiliano Buendia can be similar, and is also surprisingly useful in the air for a small playmaker.
In defence, the serious injury suffered by Diego Carlos means Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsa have reprised their partnership from last year. Villa’s defending has been dubious at times – particularly on the opening day when they conceded two goals at Bournemouth in scrappy situations following set pieces.
Bukayo Saka - who turns 21 on September 5 – has registered 16 Premier League assists so far. Only three players have more Premier League assists before their 21st birthday: Cesc Fabregas (38), Wayne Rooney (22) and Michael Owen (18).
We have won eight of our last 11 Premier League games against Aston Villa (L3), including both meetings last term. Those three defeats all came consecutively between July 2020 and February 2021.
We have lost just one of our last eight Premier League games on Wednesdays (W6 D1), going down 2-0 at home to Liverpool in March. Meanwhile, Villa have won just one of their last 10.
We have won our last five home Premier League matches, last enjoying a longer winning run at the Emirates between November 2018 and April 2019 (10 in a row). We are looking to win their first three home league matches in a season for the first time since 2017/18.
As a player, Steven Gerrard won just one of his 12 away Premier League matches against us (D5 L6), with that coming in February 2000. He played more matches at the Emirates without winning than any other ground in his Premier League playing career (six – D3 L3).
We’ll have a new face officiating a Premier League game for us on Wednesday night as Robert Jones oversees proceedings. The Merseysider has refereed one of our games before - the 5-1 Carabao Cup quarter-final win against Sunderland back in December last year.
- Referee: Robert Jones
- Assistant Referee 1: Lee Betts
- Assistant Referee 2: Ian Hussin
- Fourth Official: Craig Pawson
- Video Assistant Referee: Darren England
- Additional Video Assistant Referee: James Mainwaring
Previous visits from Villa
Last season saw us run out 3-1 victors thanks to goals from Partey, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Emile Smith Rowe when Villa were under the management of Dean Smith, who had overseen their 3-0 win in November 2020 when Ollie Watkins bagged a brace.
Before then, a late comeback with goals from Calum Chambers and Aubameyang helped secure a 3-2 win in September 2019 in what was our opponents’ first game back at the Emirates since their relegation in 2015/16.
For the best pre-match coverage for all Gooners, Nick Bright and Adrian Clarke are live in the My Arsenal Rewards box from 6.30pm with all the chat and analysis you need around the game, before handing over to Dan Roebuck and Jeremie Aliadiere for live commentary at 7.30pm.
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