It is raining hard in north London (or at least in Arsenal’s part of north London – mine, just a few miles away, is completely dry) as the players gather in the tunnel.
Whoever Aston Villa’s ball-liner-upper is, he’s doing a great job.
That’s a total of one change, with Trezeguet replacing Traore for Aston Villa, and Arsenal sticking with the side that beat Manchester United last week.
Team sheets are in, and the big names today are these ones:
Arsenal: Leno, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney, Bellerin, Thomas, Elneny, Saka, Willian, Lacazette, Aubameyang. Subs: Ceballos, Runarsson, Maitland-Niles, Pepe, Luiz, Nketiah, Xhaka.
Aston Villa: Martinez, Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett, McGinn, Douglas Luiz, Trezeguet, Barkley, Grealish, Watkins. Subs: Taylor, Steer, Hourihane, Nakamba, El Ghazi, Elmohamady, Davis.
Referee: Martin Atkinson.
In the build-up to this game, Mikel Arteta was asked whether his side were starting to show their full attacking potential, after putting four past Molde (though it’s best not to get carried away: they have scored only once in their last three league games and three times in their last five, and no top-flight team has had fewer than their 60 shots so far this season). “You could see last night that we were much more fluent in attack. We scored the goals and we had more opportunities,” he said. “It is something that we have been working on in the last two weeks.”
Two weeks? Two weeks? He was appointed 11 months ago, and he’s been working on attacking fluency in the last two weeks? Well, better late than never I suppose. And his timing is good, as having played both Manchester clubs plus Liverpool and Leicester in their last five league games their upcoming fixtures, with the obvious exception of the visit to Tottenham on 5 December, should prove a little less testing.
Villa however are the only team not to concede an away goal yet, and Emi Martínez, returning to his former club, has only had to field eight shots on target away from Villa Park, the lowest total in the league*. Interesting statistical titbit: in their last five league visits to the Emirates Aston Villa have conceded one, two, three, four and five goals, so today they should either let in none or six. The last time they conceded no goals at all here was in 2008.
Point of useless information: of the four Premier League matches played today this is the third to be between teams that are next to each other when the league is ordered alphabetically. This seems curious. Plus there was Friday’s goalless draw between Brighton and Burnley.
Anyway, hi! Welcome. Make yourselves at home.
* These statistics are superficially impressive but actually pretty much meaningless, given that they have only played two away games when almost every other side has played four. And one of the two was at Fulham.