Aston Villa v Arsenal, the team

By Bulldog Drummond

In the old days the journalists would always write, “the games are coming thick and fast for Arsenal”, and they would write that every time we had a mid-week game as well as a weekend match.  Strangely back in the 1920s when clubs used to play on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, a couple of days later, and the New Year’s Day, no one said it at all.

Anyway, they seem to have been coming thick and fast for so long it is going to be strange when after this game we don’t have another one until next weekend – the match at home to Leeds.  How weird is that going to feel.

But then another is scheduled – except that it is in Portugal which seems rather unlikely.

However we approach this one knowing that Pepe has scored in each of his last three away games which is something to behold.

As for the journalists, well Football London excel even themselves with “Full Arsenal squad revealed for Premier League showdown vs Aston Villa at Villa Park” which is of course the full squad minus the injured parties.

Still I suppose it does mean you can always pick your own team from the availables list

Goalkeepers: Mat Ryan, Runar Alex Runarsson & Karl Hein.

Defenders: Hector Bellerin, Cedric Soares, Calum Chambers, Gabriel Magalhaes, Rob Holding & Pablo Mari.

Midfielders: Bukayo Saka, Willian, Nicolas Pepe, Reiss Nelson, Granit Xhaka, Mohamed Elneny, Thomas Partey, Dani Ceballos, Emile Smith Rowe & Martin Odegaard.

Strikers: Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Eddie Nketiah & Gabriel Martinelli.

So who to pick?

The Guardian gives us

Runar Alex Runarsson

Bellerin, Holding, Gabriel, Cedric Soares 

Partey, Xhaka

Saka, Smith Rowe, Aubameyang



which of course leaves ace away goalscorer Pepe on the beach.

Sportsmole offer


Bellerin, Holding, Gabriel, Cedric;

Partey, Xhaka;

Saka, Smith Rowe, Pepe;



So no Aubameyang there for them, but Pepe gets a look in.

Now from here on we are pretty much on unified territory – for most pundits it is one of those two set ups.  So for a change here’s Who Scored’s statistical comparison for the line up with Aubameyang and not Pepe

Aston Villa Comparator Arsenal
7.0 Average Ratings 6.8
25.1 Average age 25.5
182.7 Average height in cm 182.5
1.2 Shots per goal 1.1
53% Aerial duel success 45%
0.8 Dribbles per goal 0.7
0.9 Tackles per goal 0.9
Now I must admit I am not sure I find that too helpful, and prefer the statistics we have been running such as the number of tackles compared with the number of fouls, compared with the number of yellow cards, but WhoScored have been doing this for ages, so I guess some people get a lot out of it.

But in essence it seems to indicate we are worse than them in every measure – whereas the league ratings and our comparison ratings have us neck and neck, except that our form (despite recent blips) since the new year is better than their’s.  Here’s the reminder for Villa…

Date Game Res Score Competition
01 Jan 2021 Manchester United v Aston Villa L 2-1 Premier League
08 Jan 2021 Aston Villa v Liverpool L 1-4 FA Cup
20 Jan 2021 Manchester City v Aston Villa L 2-0 Premier League
23 Jan 2021 Aston Villa v Newcastle United W 2-0 Premier League
27 Jan 2021 Burnley v Aston Villa L 3-2 Premier League
30 Jan 2021 Southampton v Aston Villa W 0-1 Premier League
03 Feb 2021 Aston Villa v West Ham United L 1-3 Premier League
The great hope for Arsenal is that since anyone can beat Newcastle and Southampton those wins don’t count for much.

Google are however having a laugh today because on typing in Aston Villa v Arsenal teams I was offered this from Bleacher Report near the top of the list

Petr Cech;

Hector Bellerin, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal;

Mathieu Flamini, Aaron Ramsey;

Joel Campbell, Mesut Ozil, Theo Walcott;

Olivier Giroud

Looking further I found an entry from Wikipedia which I rather enjoyed

But I think the earlier predictions look a little more likely.

One thing for the future.  We are about to start a little series on why exactly refereeing is a problem area in Premier League football, and why the media won’t write about it.  But while you are contemplating the answer, here is a line from the BBC’s preview of this game

  • Nine Arsenal players have been sent off since Arteta’s first game in charge on Boxing Day 2019, five more than any other side.

Makes you think.

43 Replies to “Aston Villa v Arsenal, the team”

  1. Down one nil early but thats football.

    Clash of heads in the Villa box and Konsa was holding Laca down and headed Laca’s head. It should be a penalty if the Laws of the game are implemented.

  2. Saka brought down as the last man but apparently it could not have been a goal scoring opportunity from there (30yds).

    Konsa gets a yellow card (would have been red for an Arsenal player).

  3. Saka fouled by Villa and Grelish in particular. The ref has booked two Villa but there have been several bookable fouls that have been allowed to go.

  4. The PGMOL slope is getting steeper!! This MF is getting away with selective vision and Grealish faking fouls. Grealish should find work in the local actors guild as he is up for an oscar.

  5. All the honesty of American wrestling. Don’t even expect the refereeing to be even handed. I’ve long thought we would have been better off joining the Bundesliga.

  6. AV certainly going for Saka , 1 mistake and we’re punished don’t happen for us very often . I think we will get back into this game , move the ball quicker in turn over situations because AV are not committing too many men forward and playing deep .

  7. So many people now questioning these constant decisions which are clearly corrupt. The whole filthy edifice will come crashing down.
    Whether there is pressure on the refs from betting syndicates or pressure on the PGMOL from them or whether the PGMOL are in bed with the syndicates is a question which we are beginning to read about more and more. Is it the FA, is it private individuals getting pressured or threatened? Who knows but it is totally ruining the beautiful game.
    Whoever is involved, all that us supporters ask for is a level playing field.

    Anyway, a crazy bad luck early goal but totally on top since then. We just want the ref to do his job and we’ll win this one comfortably.

  8. I think we have must have conceded more goals via deflections than any other team.

  9. Partey booked for a foul that the referee didn’t see!! This is truly PGMOL at its best!!

  10. Another blatant VAR failure!! Martinez pulls Laca over in the goal and doesn’t get seen by VAR.

  11. I cannot believe the selective blindness that the commentators apply as though they are Rileys peons.

  12. A bad moment and you pay dearly. Better second half thought we deserved a point. Never mind hopefully a minor setback, let’s hope we come back stronger

  13. It took added on time for the booking of Grealish and then there was this flea in the ear so the free kick ends up being a dropped ball.

  14. Agree, Rudolf. I have never understood players who are asleep at the start. Maybe I was more aware of my technical and physical shortcomings, but I was always ready to go at the first whistle. Anyway, the second half was quite enjoyable. There was a stretch when we could have scored 2 or 3.

  15. Villa took their early chance from our mistake and helped by the deflection.

    Then relied on solid defending, the ability to foul Arsenal players with impunity, with the guarantee of no red cards no matter what.

    Plus Grealish diving.

    Most of all, the referee!

    Why are we not a bit surprised?

  16. @ Menace

    Yes, the clear way in which Martinez pulled Laca to the ground by his shirt and actually wins the free kick wasn’t even mentioned by the commentators. That is what VAR is for but the clear unwillingness to mention it by TV is as contemptuous as the cheating of the officials.

    I do wonder what would have happened if it had been on Kane, Rashford or Mane or indeed if it had happened when Martinez was still playing for us.

    If refs were merely incompetent, I could live with it as we’d all suffer equally from bad decisions but logic suggests that it’s more than that………

  17. Clever tactics from Aston Villa players. Foul wide attacking players so that game stops and allows defensive formation to realign! Referees will penalise but little more. Occasional yellow card. Pull opposing players in the penalty area as VAR will remain blind to anything the referee has not/will not respond to. Match winning tactics when the opposition can offer nothing else in the way of additional creativity. Someone in the Arsenal team will be seriously hurt soon but that is the nature of football today. Teams know how to play against this Arsenal team and know full well that such fouling will produce a result.
    Isn’t Premier League football a wonderful spectator sport!!!!

  18. Peter Walton is disappearing up his own arse with excuses that Laca was not fouled by Martinez!! These cnuts use subjective and objective as excuses to cover up millions of pounds worth of incident and cheats.

    The shameless behaviour of the officials is buffered by these so called neutral dickheads on TV.

  19. With this load of officials in place docked by their mouthpieces of supposedly neutral experts there is zero chance of us being allowed to get sufficient points to mount a realistic challenge for the league. As I said earlier x all of the honesty of American wrestling.

  20. After the match, Rio Ferdinand & Peter Crouch both argued with Peter Walton that the incident was a penalty. Peter Walton used a series of excuses to cover Rileys funding for the next President of The US.

  21. I’ve got to admit that I didn’t see the shirt pull on Lacazette and had to see several angles.

    To be charitable, perhaps the VAR people thought that he took advantage of it and let a slight pull take him over the keeper…after all shirts are pulled all the time…

    Realistically, however, as the Germans put it, VAR was on ‘coffee break’ . The highly paid referee behind the scenes, has one job and that is to review these types of incidents…one job.

  22. In real time it looked just like a melee so the referee missing it is understandable so if there was no VAR, as frustrating as it would of been I could swallow it. But there was VAR and VAR is there for this exact reason because on the replays it was absolutely clear that Martinez had a big chunk of Lacas shirt and clearly pulled him to the ground. A 100% nailed on penalty. If Walton has defended it then what clearer proof do people need regarding the different application of the rules and VAR when it comes to Arsenal?

    Not only that but there were 2 or 3 penalty claims we had for hand ball waved away on the basis of proximity accidental, which again I could accept until you saw Xhaka pulled up for an identical hand ball.

    Honestly just another day of comical officiating both on and off the pitc. Joke.

  23. Well, if there is one positive thing, it is that refereeing has become so absurd and the refs so blatant and arrogant now, that they are exposing themselves.
    Some intrepid journalists will make a documentary, which will be watched by millions. The filthy stinking lot of them will find themselves in court, fined, without a job and with the shame of having brought the game into disrepute. The FA may allow the PGMOL to be their fall guys and take the blame. After all, it’s them that have made these season-destroying decisions against Arsenal for the last 17 years.
    It just feels like the time is ripe for this to all come out. Imagine being able to watch games without referee bias doing us out of 15 points a season. It will feel so good. And it will feel good when justice is done upon them. Dishonest crooks deserve a comeuppance and they had their chance to change and blew it time and again.

  24. Is it the referee’s fault that we can only manage 3 shots on target in an entire game, yet again?

  25. @jgsol…no, however referee complaints aside, the build up play was looking pretty fair for much of the second half even if we didn’t score. A close look at our play shows that we are still learning how to play as a team. The players on the top teams are settled, know their system and know their job within the system…ours, unfortunately, are still working on this. Villa beat us today because of a mistake on our part and they have a settled team…they were a better team. Today’s second half, though looked OK for much of it. WE just couldn’t finish things off. We blasted a few good chances high and wide…(Odegaard…)

  26. But, except for the Chel$ki game and maybe the one afterwards, the number of shots on target have been around 3 the whole season.

    Are you not indulging in the wishful thinking that has plagued many fans all season?

    If Aston Villa can manage 8 shots on target, why can we only manage 3?

    Oh yes, we are in transition, as has been the excuse so many fans have given for years.

    Could it be that the tactics are rubbish? The same tactics that we have seen for more than a year from Arteta and then for more than a year from Emery?

    Surely not. Isn’t Arteta the best coach around? Aren’t we the lucky ones?

    Oh yes, he could do nothing until he had all of “his” players. So he has got rid of all of the old players, bar one or two and has brought in “his” players, like Superwillian and, surprise surprise, we are even worse.

    But, of course, he needs time. The best young coach needs time to get his message across.

    Oh yes, but, the brand of football he has given us is the worse we have seen since Tery Neil’s day. It is boring, turgid and completely uninteresting, apart from being unproductive, but he is the best young coach isn’t he?

  27. jjgsol
    Since the Chelsea game the football Arsenal are playing has much improved.
    There is more flow and decisiveness on show, more fluidity and pace in the build up and more one touch incisive passing.
    We are now playing with the essential ingredient that blighted our play for the first half of the season. Confidence.
    I agree the shooting, both in terms of quantity and quality, needs to improve but that will come I am sure.
    If you cannot see that you are either so entrenched in your anti Arteta stance that you refuse to see what is in front of your eyes or, to coin a rather cheesy cliche, “need to go to Specsavers”.

  28. It’s either the refs are wrong or untold don’t know much about refereeing. However whatever the case is, this blaming the ref after ever sub-optimal result has become stale

  29. I didn’t watch the match, but following all the hue and cry online, I’ve had to look at the Laca Vs Martinez event. Frankly I think it’s grumblings like this that has given arsenal fans a reputation for being sore losers. Even if you don’t agree with the ref, it is the adult thing to do to be able to see the other person’s perspective then decide whether that is acceptable. It is clear to see that there is probably a 50% chance of that incident being interpreted as laca pushing/leaning into Martinez (100% if you’re a villa fan), and another 50% chance of it being interpreted as Martinez pulling down laca(maybe 100% if you’re an arsenal fan). The ref being “neutral” can give it either way and in such cases, the mature thing to do is accept. It’s only kids who throw a tantrum when decisions don’t go their way.

  30. It is so easy to pick on Willian. He has not provided a lot of confidence to the fans but has sufficient skills to open up any defence. Sadly his skills and influence seem to be needing some match practice with the academy.

    As regards the number of shots at goal or perhaps on goal need to be addressed. Arsenals gunners are missing the spark to ignite the powder in their cannons.

    However, the slope that Arsenal has to play on impacts the shooting, specially when fouls are called for almost anything without any VAR support. In fact VAR is so noticeable by it absence in supporting the truth that Arsenal have to start fouling the cameras.

  31. Even Martinez responds to Laca telling him he(laca) was pushing Martinez first. I know he’s a villa player now, but after spending all that time with us, I believe if he knew the ref obviously missed his clear and obvious foul against us, he would just keep quiet.

  32. Arome – the only adult part of your comment is you didn’t see what you are commenting on.

    Rio Ferdinand and Peter Crouch both thought is was a clear and obvious penalty. PGMOL thought it was subjective. I think you are an object and subject to some growing up.

  33. Well since you keep reading Lakh I hope you are reading the new series. It covers ground not previously covered and you might find it interesting. It starts at “Are the referees and the media really out to get Arsenal, or am I just imagining it?”

  34. I’m aware of the refereeing (still having my sight) but bang a few in every match and it won’t matter as much. I don’t think the PGMOL, FA, League et al will ever change. Forget fair play, right and wrong, bias since this is Football in a myopic land. Don’t agree? How many EPL officials work the Champions League or World Cup matches?
    Perhaps more to the point, after the match the Manager said the top sides don’t make mistakes like that. Only a guess, but I think he knows a bit more about football than the rest of us.

  35. @menace, considering the fact that you were the only “entity” in the entire world that saw Lacazettes elbow on the bate borisov player as a “friendly push”, you’ll pardon me for not considering anything you say as worth reading

  36. Arteta also made a comment that it is best if he doesn’t discuss the officiating when asked about it by the media after the game (so they were obviously aware that something wasn’t right but, just as they wouldn’t make accusations in 1996, they still haven’t grown a pair in 2021).

    I saw three game-changing decisions go against Arsenal in the match (in addition to the yellow card that Partey was given for running with the ball after some Marvellous theatrics and squealing). Saka was brought down by Konsa (last man) for a yellow card, when many thought it should have been red. A few minutes later Konsa went through the back of Lacazette (which should have been another yellow) – no foul given, let alone the card that it deserved. Then we had the Lacazette penalty. That was so obvious that even the media acknowledged it.

    Yes, Martinez did spend all that time with us, so he is well aware of the rules as they are enforced by PGMOB, and isn’t going to rock any boats as a Villa player.

    I have also noted a backlash against AFTV on Twitter, by fans supportive of Wenger, saying that if their energies were expended supporting the team/club instead of laying into them at every opportunity, things might be different now. AFTV have a large following and really ought to be helping to publicise the officiating scandal that is taking place right before their eyes, instead of kowtowing to the PGMOB’s media lackeys. I have noticed a lot of sympathy for Arsenal’s refereeing plight from Everton and Rangers supporters in the last few days.

    If Arsenal don’t qualify for Europe next season, it won’t be down to the players.

    Mike Riley makes my blood boil.

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