Aston Villa’s Players Seek to Break Bad Habits to Earn Survival Chance

Aston Villa vs Arsenal Match Preview

A heartbreaking draw against Everton has resulted in Villa’s penultimate game of the season being more important than ever. Arsenal come to Villa Park fresh off of making the FA Cup final and still in with an outside chance of securing a spot in European football next season.

If Manchester City beat Watford in the game scheduled to finish immediately before the Villa Park clash, then Villa will certainly need little else to motivate them. They’ll know they’ll need something from the game, preferably to beat Arsenal for the first time this century.

League Form

Aston Villa – L L L W D

Arsenal – W W D L W

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Manager Quotes

Dean Smith on player consistency

“Jack [Grealish] is certainly not going to through the whole of Project Restart without scoring.

“So he’s due a goal with the chances that he’s had and the opportunities.

“The other players are as well. Trezeguet scores two against Palace but doesn’t have his best game against Everton. [Anwar] El Ghazi, [Mbwana] Samatta and Keinan Davis, they will come up trumps for us, we’re sure of that.

“It’s good to see people like Douglas Luiz, Ezri Konsa, their upturn in form. Tyrone Mings has been having a good season anyway. Now Ezri has been catching up in terms of stature. That’s certainly helped us.”

Mikel Arteta on Aston Villa

“They have a massive urgency because they probably have to win both games to have a chance to survive.

“When you are in that situation you are fighting for your life, so they are going to give absolutely everything. We have to be in the same mood.

“We still have to win both games and wait to have a chance to qualify for Europe and that’s the mood that I want from everybody involved.”

Tactical Analysis

Arsenal have mixed up their formations a number of times this season, but they primarily deploy a 4-2-3-1 with Alexandre Lacazette up front, Nicolas Pépé and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the wings and David Luiz joining Sokratis in defense.

They play a particularly aggressive game with the intention of dominating play. They have seen 52.7% of the ball on average across the season, completing 83.4% of their passes – this shows they have the competence and composure to execute their game plan and take the game to their opposition consistently.

Domination of this manner comes at a price, however – they have racked up 79 yellow cards (second only to Tottenham’s 80) and 5 red cards, which combine as the worst discipline record in the league. They are not above tackling recklessly to try and disrupt their opponent’s rhythm, but it leads to them giving away set pieces in dangerous positions. They have conceded five goals from set pieces (excluding corners) and six from penalties, having given away seven penalties in total.

They have scored 53 goals from 48.83 xG, and have conceded 45 from 53.55 xGA. They are as good at carving out chances as they are at finishing them, and they have made themselves very difficult to score against.

Arsenal are an aggressive team that will try to give Villa a hard time. If Villa can take advantage of their aggression, they can turn it against them and come away with a result.

One to Watch

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The chief enforcer of the league’s most aggressive team is Granit Xhaka, who makes 1.6 tackles per game, committing 1.9 fouls. He is also the engine of this Arsenal side, completing an impressive 88% of all passes attempted on average. He is the one tasked with disrupting the opponent’s attacks and kickstarting his own team’s.

Memory Match

Aston Villa 3-2 Arsenal – 13-12-1998

Dennis Bergkamp’s double was not enough to overcome Julian Joachim’s goal and Dion Dublin’s own brace, back when Villa were a force to be reckoned with.

Previous Result

Arsenal 3-2 Aston Villa – 22-09-2019

John McGinn’s 20th minute goal looked to have been cancelled out by Nicolas Pépé’s penalty, only for Wesley to immediately restore the lead for Villa. Unfortunately, two late goals from Callum Chambers and Aubameyang secured the win for Arsenal in another capitulation from Villa.

How it could play out

It’s brown trousers time for Villa. Although a weekend of fortuitous results has made the picture a little brighter, they now have a situation where a result against a team who have given them a hard time over the last couple of decades is imperative. Lose, and it’s pretty much game over.

Villa looked like they had it in them to get a rare win over Arsenal earlier in the season, but it was their lack of ability to see a game out, something they have become notorious for this season, that undid them.

If they can snatch a lead early, they will have to buck the trend they’ve set all season against a team that is good at coming back from losing positions. It will require every lesson learned across a tumultuous season to be applied here. If anything, a result here will prove that there is a place in the Premier League for Villa after all.

It’s time to step up.

Arsenal have been pretty strong since the restart, with solid wins against Wolves and Liverpool, followed by the defeat of Man City in the FA Cup. They come into this game with their season more or less wrapped up and one eye firmly on some silverware, but they will surely not just roll over – they currently sit in 10th place which, by their standards, is a disaster. They will be looking for pride as well as some momentum. Villa will need to bring their A-game and earn their place in the top flight.


Aston Villa 0-1 Arsenal

Realistically, the odds are stacked heavily against Villa here. A win is certainly not out of reach, but if the whole team doesn’t pull together in the same direction, it is tough to see how they will do it. How much do they want it? Can they find a more clinical edge? Can they break their previous disappointing performance trends of 2019/20?



  1. Could of done with a couple more goals but a win is a win & ManChave done us a big favour wallopping Watford 4-0 . So all we can do now is pray everything goes Villa’s way on Sunday

  2. Nothing to say, except another lifeline surely we are not going to throw this one away. UTV.

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