Hard Pounding Ahead: Arsenal at Villa Preview and Predicted Line-Up

Unknown-9                      The boys in red and white line up defensively against Villa

Tonight, a desperate Aston Villa side will throw everything they’ve got at us to try and cling on to their place in the Premier League.

It will, as the Duke of Wellington said of the Battle of Waterloo, be a case of “hard pounding.”

Villa are in the drop zone with two games to go. Their only chance of survival is to catch Watford, who are three points ahead of them (also with two games to play) and a better goal difference.

Fail to win tonight, and Villa are effectively down.

Couple that with the sheer amount of games our squad has played recently and the need for rotation and this result is far from certain.

Since the restart Villa have won only one game (against Palace) but they have had one of the toughest runs-in of any team, with almost all their opponents in the top half of the table including Liverpool, Man Utd, Chelsea, Wolves and Sheffield United.

There would be something typically Arsenal-ish about beating Liverpool and Man City then losing to lowly Villa, but I have a feeling we’ll come through this one OK.

The optimism in our squad is obvious and few of the players are guaranteed a start in our FA Cup Final team, so all are playing for places.

With another game on Saturday and then a week’s rest before the Final, I expect El Patron to make quite a few changes tonight.

Here’s my predicted (preferred) line up:


Soares – Sokratis – Holding – Kolasinac

Torreira – Xhaka – Willock

Saka – Nketieh – Nelson

My team may be more radical than Arteta will go with, but we’ll see.

I’m sure that Nketieh will start after completing his harsh three match ban and Nelson deserves another shot after scoring on his last appearance (and playing well).

This will be a very different challenge compared with our last two games, where we sat back against superior teams and soaked up pressure.

Villa are clearly nowhere near the class of Man City and Liverpool. However, they need all three points so they will have to come at us.

I would be tempted to play a tight defensive game and hit them on the break, even though their league position suggests we should try to just come out and steamroller them.

We’re getting better at playing out from the back and we have players with the speed and skill to kill Villa on the counter, hence my ostensibly cautious approach.

Grealish is the stand-out talent in the Brummies’ side. He’s also their top scorer in the PL with seven. It’s quite striking (pun intended) that not a single Villa player is in double figures for goals this season, a fact that goes a long way towards explaining why they’re in trouble.

I have two concerns from an Arsenal perspective: our vulnerability at set pieces (as in the second Spuds goal) and the risk of injury to any of our key players.

Fingers crossed for a win and to maintaining the outside chance of qualifying for Europe through our league position as well as the FA Cup.




43 Responses to Hard Pounding Ahead: Arsenal at Villa Preview and Predicted Line-Up

  1. oz gunner says:

    Great post Rocky. I agree – I like the fact that Villa needs to attack. Plays into our hands a little especially if we go with Saka and Nelson on the wings.

    For that reason, I’d prefer it if we went with the 3 CB’s and two wing-backs. 3-4-3 has been working well for us so I’d prefer we ride it out for the rest of the season while we have some form.


  2. RockyLives says:

    I can’t fault your reasoning Dr Oz, but I’m worried that Luiz will be too cream crackered to play another full 90 after Saturday‘s heroics.

  3. RA says:

    Thanks for the Post, Rocky,

    I like your team selection and would not mind if that was the one put out by Mikel.

    Dr Oz has also put up an interesting team and I would like to convince both of you to make one slight change to the roster.

    You have both selected Kola at left back, and altho I used to rate him at one time, his injuries and lack of confidence, s demonstrated against Pool, seem to have taken him down somewhat.

    Another player I have had doubts about for some time, is AMN, as he does not do it for me at right-back or wing-back, as we have others who are better in those positions.

    His cameo performance against City on the other hand was a spirited and effective display that quite took my breath away. He played a mature and key role that night, and he reduced their crosses very well indeed.

    Maybe that is the position he should concentrate on, pushing the excellent Tierney further upfield where his pace and crossing skills will concern Villa.
    Saka can play on t’other wing instead of Pepe, or come off the bench to change the line up if either Tierney or AMN get injured or tired.

    Yes, for me — AMN — could be a welcome surprise in the left back-role, and gives us options. 👍

  4. Aaron says:


    You should be on the team somewhere for carrying the heavy load here.

    Mikel can’t rotate too much or there will be no cohesiveness, unless the teams scrimmage this way.

    Yet, that is a rational lineup, minus Kola. maybe guen or ozil can fill in at left back as they are well rested. I jest.

    AMN for me unless Mikel is resting him for watford.

    Both of these games are banana peels, but if the team gets 7th they will be in Europa, not my choice, but probably Mikel’s, he could do with the money.

    So, just win out and call it good, including the FA Cup, and that would be a tidy way to end this insane year and have some momentum going forward.

  5. RockyLives says:

    Hmmm… I must admit Redders that I had forgotten about poor Ainsley when I mustered my team.

    Now that you have brought him back to my attention I’m inclined to say he should be in my starting place.

    I would put him at RB, move Soares to LB and leave Kola on the bench for the reasons you outlined.

  6. RockyLives says:

    It occurred to me that there’s a mini bonus if we beat Villa tonight.

    It will pretty much relegate the Villans, so when we play Watford on the final day of the season the Hornets won’t be ‘fighting for their lives’ as they’ll already know they’re safe.

    It may play a small part if seventh place is still a possibility for us by that stage.

  7. fred1266 says:

    I just want PEA to get golden boot for the second year running

  8. RockyLives says:

    Leicester have gone off the boil so PEA may be in with a shout.

    I suspect he’ll have to score if the bench if he’s going to add to his tally tonight.

  9. fred1266 says:

    Ok didn’t realise he was on the bench tonight was Hopkins for 2 hatricks

  10. RockyLives says:

    I don’t know if he’ll be on the bench Fred – he may even start.

    I was just guessing that Arteta would give him a rest.

  11. fred1266 says:

    Ok I think he starts

  12. fred1266 says:

    Think Watford can still go down once city and use beat them by a a few goals hence destroying there gold difference

    Who u guys would like to stay up between the 3

  13. LB says:

    I’m really enjoying the military themes.

  14. fred1266 says:

  15. fred1266 says:

    Nice to see torreira starting

  16. LB says:

    Stronger team than I expected, all good though.

  17. RockyLives says:

    Me too LB.

    Saka and Soares as wingbacks I assume.

    Fred – chance for Auba to close in on the Golden Boot!

  18. fred1266 says:

  19. fred1266 says:

    Yea LB hatrick today and he will be level, was hoping arteta would have played him up top today

  20. GoonerB says:

    Thanks Raddy. Great post. Praying for an Auba hattrick tonight. Interesting line up with those 3 up front. Still not quite sure who plays where with that front 3

  21. RockyLives says:

    Sloppy marking for Villa’s goal. You can’t let someone wander in at the back of the box completely unmarked.

  22. fred1266 says:

    Cedric didn’t even attempt to block it

  23. fred1266 says:

    Torreira not having a good game

  24. RockyLives says:

    Still fancy us to win. Laca to equalize then a couple from Auba.

  25. RockyLives says:

    Agreed Fred. We’re missing Xhaka

  26. Aaron says:

    The only highlight for me in the first half was Luiz’s 16 minute pas forward. They took their goal well.

    But we are playing with 10 men as kola offers nothing passing and movement wise.

    We also miss Xhaka as Tor is not syncing with Ceballos.

    AMN on at half and some other youngsters.

    Need a spark lets see what Mikel can do.

  27. RA says:

    Disappointed with the lethargic play from the back.

    Luiz got the credit in the last two games – his tip tap passing with Holding makes me yell at the screen in frustration.

    The Arsenal seem to think ‘we beat top two teams – so Villa will be easy meat’ — Wrong.

  28. LB says:

    Would Tierney have turned his back on that shot — I think not.

  29. RockyLives says:

    Is it just me, or has Saka seemed quite subdued overall since the post-lockdown restart?

  30. oz gunner says:

    well, this has blown up if we lose and didn’t even rest players…

  31. RockyLives says:

    Would like to have Grealish in N5

  32. fred1266 says:

    Just you rocky remember he scored his first epl goal and also the great assist he had against Leicester

  33. Aaron says:

    Well, a goal would be helpful if only for the pressure they have been trying to place on villa.

    Rest everyone next game!

  34. RockyLives says:

    We’ve been flat as the proverbial pancake tonight.

  35. RockyLives says:

    Wow – Henri Lansbury coming on. Remember him?

  36. Aaron says:

    That was one flat performance. Yikes.

    Regroup and get ready for the next game as a warmup for the FA Cup final.

    Personally, I could really give a rats if we get seventh through league. Other than form, just want to really win the FA Cup, and if we qualify that way then great.

  37. fatgingergooner says:

    Can’t say I’m too surprised by that result and performance. We’ve had 5 very tough games in quick succession with Wolves, Leicester, Spurs, Liverpool and City. There was always going to be a drop off given that a lot of the same players have been involved in those matches. I can’t really say I’m too concerned about the PL. If the options were finishing 6th or winning the FA Cup then you’d have to be a fucking idiot to choose 6th. The players brought it when it really mattered and if they do the same against Chelsea then I couldn’t care less if Watford beat us 12-0 last game of the season.

  38. Aaron says:


    Could not have said it any better.

    Win the FA Cup, in this horror season, and we would still get a trophy and spurs and manure would not.

    How great would that be?

    I will refrain from commenting with an expletive, a first for me.

    Would be spirit lifting that is for sure.

  39. oz gunner says:

    @ Rocky

    Sure do. Totts away goal and that ripper for England under 21. Been a long long time since I’ve heard that name though.

  40. RockyLives says:

    Great and sensible comment FGG

  41. fred1266 says:

    Nah not 12 nil I want that shit face deeney crying on Sunday

  42. RockyLives says:

    FGG – I hope you don’t mind but I’ve used your sensible comment as a Post, so…


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