Arsenal vs Aston Villa – Premier League
How many times will Emiliano Martinez give interviews in the build-up to this one? Plenty. How many times will his name be mentioned in general? Endlessly.
It could, and should, be a case of revenge on the cards here. Aston Villa won both these fixtures last season – one very comfortably and the other less so – and Dean Smith will have those matches fresh in his memory as he aims for another scalp.
In the 3-0 home defeat it was Villa’s interchangeability that tore Arsenal to shreds: Jack Grealish, John McGinn and Ollie Watkins were ruthless in that excruciating November dismantlement.
Boasting more capable right-backs in transition (not Bellerin) and centre-backs who save the dancing for the clubs (not Holding) Arsenal are better equipped to deal with Villa’s threat. Adding Emi Buendia, Danny Ings and Leon Bailey to their front line has invigorated them after Grealish’s departure and they continue to look a threat down wide areas and in those pesky transitions.
Even in matches where they’ve lost they’ve been unfortunate (Chelsea away) and Smith has got his side bursting with energy and fitness, running endlessly in fixtures and chasing down all lost causes.
Pinning a tail on this donkey ends up somewhere around score draw. After all, both teams like shipping a goal or two.
Score prediction: Arsenal 1-1 Aston Villa
Match prediction: Both goals in the second half