Matchday 30 of the Premier League is here with only 8 teams having a match this weekend. The rest of the teams will be fulfilling their FA Cup commitments and then head into the international break. Arsenal travel to Birmingham to face Aston Villa with the Gunners looking to cement their place in the top 4 with only 8 more matches to go. Steven Gerrard’s men meanwhile are 9th in the league and are still alive in the race for a top 8 finish. The match at Villa Park promises to be an exciting one with both the teams flourishing under their respective managers.
WHEN AND WHERE?
Date: Saturday, 19th March 2022.
Time: 12:30 pm (UK).
Venue: Villa Park.
Referee: Andy Madley.
Assistants: Simon Bennett, Mark Scholes.
Fourth official: Martin Atkinson.
VAR: Jonathan Moss.
Assistant VAR: Timothy Wood.
Arsenal have looked very solid this season with Mikel Arteta finally finding the perfect balance in his team. The Spaniard’s style of play is visible when the team is out on the pitch and the perfect mixture of experience and youth has helped the team reach new heights. Playing in the Uefa Champions League is looking extremely possible for the Gunners, a competition they haven’t played in since the 2016/2017 season. They have used a 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 formation this season with Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe having a season of their lives. The two Hale end products have broken through this season and have a combined 19 goals and 7 assists this season. The departure of club captain Aubameyang hasn’t affected the attack for the Gunners with Lacazette and Martinelli stepping up.
For Aston Villa, the midseason sack of Dean Smith and the appointment of Steven Gerrard from Rangers has been nothing short of exceptional. The Villains look lively under the former Liverpool captain and the January arrival of Philippe Coutinho has unlocked their attacking potential. The Brazilian has played his part in 4 goals and 3 assists in just 9 matches and is finding his form back. Steven Gerrard will look to cause a major upset and a stumbling block in Gunner’s top 4 bid.
Takehiro Tomiyasu and Emile Smith Rowe are expected to be fit for Mikel Arteta with no other fresh injury concerns. The Spaniard said in his pre-match press conference, “There is a chance, but we don’t know, again today in training we will see how he’s (Tomiyasu) feeling. He(Smith Rowe) was fine again, he had a little issue before the game, but he’s been fine the past two days so hopefully now he can get some consistency and momentum.”
For Steven Gerrard, Marvellous Nakamba, Kortney Hause and Lucas Digne will all be unavailable for the game. Digne will be a huge miss for the Villains with the fullback being in great form since his arrival from Everton in January. Callum Chambers is expected to replace Hause in the heart of defence against his boyhood club.
Players to Watch out for
The Brazilian certainly will be the most dangerous player on the pitch for Aston Villa with the playmaker being a revelation for the Villains. He has 4 goals and 3 assists in 9 games this season and Mikel Arteta will be hoping his defenders will keep him quite throughout the 90 minutes. He is averaging 2.7 shots per game, 1.6 key passes per game and is averaging a goal or assist every 98 minutes in the Premier League.
After that penalty miss against Italy in the Euros in June, the English winger is redeeming himself under Mikel Arteta. The youngster has the more goal contributions than any other u-21 player in the Premier League with 8 goals and 5 assists. He is averaging 2.4 shots per game, 1.7 key passes per game and is the club’s 2nd highest goalscorer this season. The absence of Lucas Digne on the left wing will be a major boost for Saka who operates on the right side and his pace and dribbling will be key on that side of the pitch.
Emile Smith Rowe
Another player who is having a mind-blowing season alongside Bukayo Saka is Emile Smith Rowe. The u-23 England international has put in multiple stellar performances this season for the Gunners and has become a fan favourite. His journey from the Academy to the first team has been nothing short of exceptional and he will be looking to continue his fine form against the Villains. The 21 year old has bagged 9 goals and assisted twice in 15 games this season in the PL. He is averaging 1.3 shots per game, 1 key pass per game and a goal contribution every 128 minutes.