Arsenal vs Aston Villa: 5 key players with progress on the mind

Arsenal, David Luiz (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Arsenal, David Luiz (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images) /
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Arsenal, Granit Xhaka
Arsenal, Granit Xhaka (Photo by Chloe Knott – Danehouse/Getty Images) /

1. Granit Xhaka

There are a lot of questions being asked about this Arsenal midfield, and part of the problem is just a lack of options. Between two positions, Mikel Arteta has three guys to choose from. But no matter what, he always counts on Xhaka.

This is a match where we can expect to see a lot of possession. That is always the kind of match where Xhaka takes on a bigger role simply because he is usually the guy distributing that possession. He is the guy who will be scoping out a shelled Villa defense, looking to crack it open with a pass.

Plus, with Villa looking to strike on counterattacks, it’ll be doubly important that Xhaka isn’t just sharp in possession, but sharp in covering his defensive tracks as well. Against City and Liverpool, he was hunkered in defensively and did his job well. He’s an underrated defender as always, but against Aston Villa, it will be about defending in space, not being pinned.

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That changes the game for Xhaka. He can do it, no doubt. But once it’s actually in motion, it will feel a hell of a lot better.