It’s a classic case of master against apprentice when Aston Villa under Remi Garde will go head to head against Arsene’s Wenger. The former Arsenal man and current Villa boss has taken up one of the hardest jobs in English football now, in the hot seat to ensure Premier League survival for the Birmingham-based club. The Villains are on a record 14-game run without a win and as dubious as it seems to be, they will go into this game on the back of a creditable draw at Southampton and having just accrued 6 points in 15 weeks, it’s important that they get something/anything out of this game on Sunday.
Arsenal, on the other hand, are riding high with confidence, after the crucial 0-3 victory in Greece against Olympiakos that sealed their berth in the last 16 in the Champions League. Arsenal, are the best travelling side in the league, with an enviable record away from home, winning five of their eight games on road. They will make the trip to the Villa Park on the back of a facile 3-1 in against Sunderland at home. With top of the table Leicester City facing a big game against Chelsea on Monday, Arsenal can go top with a win on Sunday, which is something Arsene Wenger and his men should be looking forward to, in the weekend.
Both Craig Gardner (knee) and Jordan Amavi (ACL) will be out for a few more weeks while captain Micah Richards should also be missing the weekend game with a knee problem. But Garde is boosted by Rudy Gestede who is fit enough to start on Sunday.
The major news concerning Arsenal would be the absence of Alexis Sanchez on Sunday. Arsene Wenger also updated on the status of a few other players – Jack Wilshere should be fit for the new year while Tomas Rosicky could be back by the end of January. Both Coquelin and Cazorla are facing a three month period on the sidelines.
Aston Villa have earned more points away from home against Arsenal (20) than they have at home (18) in the Premier League era.
Arsenal have lost none of their last 16 Premier League visits to Villa Park (W9 D7). Only three teams have ever enjoyed better runs of away results in Football League history (Liverpool at Sunderland – 20 games, Man Utd at Aston Villa – 20 games, Chelsea at Spurs – 17 games).
Eight consecutive home games without a victory equals Aston Villa’s longest ever run in the league set in March 1921 and matched in October 1987.
Rudy Gestede (Aston Villa) v Olivier Giroud (Arsenal)
Rudy Gestede is back in the fold and he hasn’t quite had an electrifying start to his career at Aston Villa but whenever he’s been on the pitch, he’s been vitally important for the Villains. His presence up front, ability to hold up the ball and bringing the other quicker players into play, will be really crucial for the home side as Arsenal will look to attack right from the first whistle to the last.
Giroud scored the most important hat-trick, perhaps in his career, in helping Arsenal qualify for the knock-out stages. Arsene Wenger, following that performance, praised him saying, he doesn’t need Benzema when he’s got Giroud firing on all cylinders, and a pat on the shoulder like that, could exactly be the thing that fires the Frenchman up ahead of a busy end of the year period for Arsenal, making him one of the key players at Arsenal at this point in time.
The best away side in the league going up against the worst. One way traffic.
Aston Villa 1-3 Arsenal.