Aston Villa v Arsenal: the team and the question of progressing to Man C’s level

By Bulldog Drummond

The Evening Standard tells the team for this afternoon’s game like this


Cedric, White, Gabriel, Tierney;

Odegaard, Partey, Xhaka;

Saka, Lacazette, Smith Rowe.

In this case “like this” meaning that Smith Rowe starts and Martinelli gets a bit of a rest  – which I can certainly understand since Martinelli ran for the whole match midweek.  Tomiyasu is still doubtful and given that he has had the same injury twice one can understand why the club is being ultra-cautious.

Interestingly Sports Mole goes for exactly the same line up.

The Hard Tackle on the other hand stays with the tried and tested


Cedric, White, Gabriel, Tierney:

Odegaard, Partey, Xhaka;

Saka, Lacazette, Martinelli

Elsewhere the Telegraph is doing a prediction of the results of Manchester City and Liverpool through the rest of the season and suggests Manchester City will get 95 points and Liverpool 91 points by the end of the season.

Taking the current table…

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Manchester City 29 22 4 3 68 18 50 70
2 Liverpool 29 21 6 2 75 20 55 69
3 Chelsea 28 17 8 3 57 19 38 59
4 Arsenal 27 16 3 8 43 31 12 51

… that would put the winners 44 points away from where we are now.  We have 11 games left to go and even if we won all 11 (which is extremely doubtful) that would mean we would still be 11 points away from the top of the table team.

Of course this prediction of 95 points might be hopelessly wrong but it is worth comparing that sort of target with what Arsenal got when we won the league under Mr Wenger

Year P W D L F A GD Pts
2004 38 26 12 0 73 26 47 90
2002 38 26 9 3 79 36 43 87
1998 38 23 9 6 68 33 35 78

All of which confirms that we are not just trying to get back to our previous level as achieved under Mr Wenger but we now have to go further because of what Liverpool and Manchester City have done.  

But there is another factor at play here.  The difference between the top teams and the bottom team has not only grown becuase the top teams have got better but because the bottom teams have got worse.  Here is the bottom of the league last season and in 1998.

1998 bottom

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
18 Bolton Wanderers 38 9 13 16 41 61 -20 40
19 Barnsley 38 10 5 23 37 82 -45 35
20 Crystal Palace 38 8 9 21 37 71 -34 33

last season bottom

   Team P W D L F A GD Pts
18 Fulham 38 5 13 20 27 53 -26 28
19 West Bromwich Albion 38 5 11 22 35 76 -41 26
20 Sheffield United 38 7 2 29 20 63 -43 23

What Arsenal therefore need to be doing is more than just climb up to the top four, and then emulate the teams of Mr Wenger; Arsenal needs to go further than this by really making sure we punish middle and lower ranking clubs.  Which is why from time to time I’ve had a little look at how our league position compares with where we were after a similar number of games in the past.

So here we are one more time…

Season P W D L F A GD Pts
4 2021/2 27 16 3 8 43 31 12 51
10 2020/1 27 11 5 11 35 28 7 38
10 2019/20 27 8 13 6 39 36 3 37
4 2018/9 27 16 5 6 55 37 18 53
6 2017/8 27 13 6 8 51 36 15 45
6 2016/7 27 15 5 7 56 34 22 50
3 2015/6 27 15 6 6 43 26 17 51

The point is that in 2015/16 we came second having achieved 51 points by this stage of the season – exactly where we are now, but I doubt anyone will believe we are going to come second this season, having exactly the same number of points now as we did in 2015/16.  Liverpool at the moment, sitting in second have 69 points – 15 more than Tottenham in second in 2015/16 had at the same number of games.

Again the bar has risen greatly.  The bottom teams struggle more and the top two for the moment are flying away.

Which in turn means that once we achieve our top four target, we then have to go on another major journey to get up to the current levels of the top two.  We have returned to the level we were at when we achieved runners’ up only to find the bar has risen a long, long way.

I do think that Mr Arteta is quite capable of taking us up again to that level.  He has shown a type of tactical innovation we have not seen since the Wengerian days and a willingness to be ruthless with the team to get the line up and results he wants.

What I hope is that having taken us back to the top four level he will be able to take us on, in a step by step progression, rather than with another wholesale overthrow of a whole section of the team as he did last summer.  I’m not sure how many more of those my old heart will stand.

20 Replies to “Aston Villa v Arsenal: the team and the question of progressing to Man C’s level”

  1. rob holding out is now taken for granted … i’m sorry to say that after all these months, i can’t see anything in big gab’s game justifying that, except for that left-footed left CB dogma, which has always baffled me
    what about kolo-sol, blanc-desailly, varane-ramos, baresi-costacurta, piqué-puyol, or even BFG-The Kos … ??
    as for emil, i do hope he’ll be picked this time; he’s been our main attacking threat, i don’t think we can’t do without him any longer
    i’ve read interesting posts considering the possibility of trying him out in the CF position, and i find the idea very appealing
    i like laca a lot, i admire him actually, for the way he has made up for his lack of physicality thanks to his technique, positioning, intelligence, commitment, unselfishness … BUT it looks like he’s completely lost his scoring boots; where has gone the lad who used to be ruthless, fast, accurate in the box when he first came over, i wonder?
    on the other hand, emil, is strong, direct, cold-blooded, has an eagle’s eye for the tiniest space where to make the right move; there’s no useless “flourish” in anything he does, which is the mark of the very best imo – i just hope he’s not the victim of it
    tomiyasu (if fit of course) – white – holding – tierney
    partey – xhaka
    saka – odegaard – martinelli
    i’d like to see

  2. Official lineup

    Tierney, Gabriel, White, Soares
    Xhaka, Partey
    ES Rowe, Ødegaard, Saka

    Subs – Okonkwo, Holding, Tavares, Swanson, Lokonga, Elneny, Hutchonson,Pepe, Nketiah

    Big changes with Ramsdale and Martinelli not in the squad and a relatively lightweight subs bench


  3. Unbelievable…a yellow for knocking Laca about 6 feet backwards on to his backside.

  4. That’s 3 yellows for Villa…I smell an ‘even things up’ yellow for Arsenal

  5. this team has a clear plan, and is getting better and better at executing it – what a joy to watch they are
    it’s been white’s most impressive half so far imo, his tackle in front of leno around the 20th, to get the ball back with his “weaker” foot should be in all academies’ textbooks
    i can’t explain why laca’s becoming such a ghostly presence, as though the fading memory of the player he used to be was strolling aroung the pitch – he needs a goal, obviously but his lack of confidence has turned into a lack of hunger i’m afraid; may the gods of football have a tap-in in store for him to get boosted up
    i fear bukayo might get seriously injured soon – he’s getting no protection whatsoever from those pgmo incompetent clones, just as though they had an interest in having the most dazzling british player in ages injured, the criminal f..ks
    second goal, lads, please, just so i might breathe a little bit more freely

  6. the ref is only seeing yellow now. Every one of our fouls produces a yellow card, it seems

  7. amazing…76th minute and this joker in black is giving warnings to Cash…he has been breaking up counters with fouls since the 2nd minute.

  8. An overall solid display. We tired in the second and were only threatening in spurts but the result was not really ever in doubt.

    Niggly points…Leno’s distribution and Pepe’s overall play were disappointing…not enough minutes perhaps.

  9. A solid, assured, display. A must win game, won.
    These players now really showing the benefit of training and playing together and winning through the battles they’ve won through so far this season.
    Their sense of positioning to each other to enable a sequence of passing, they are really getting into a place to sustain a top tier status.
    Still one game at a time.

  10. A big big big win today. 3 points were needed after the midweek defeat. You could see tired legs in the second half but we dug in deep en kept the clean sheet. Just what the doctor ordered for today! COYG!!!

  11. tremendously important win indeed
    in the wake of wednesday’s game the last minutes were bound to be tough, but the togetherness of the lads in such moments is amazing
    the break comes at exactly the right time for the boys, i think; 3 wins before chelsea’d be awesome – 3rd, not 4th we’d be talking about then!!

  12. Thank God we finished the game without broken legs. The bastard Madeley was so blatant with his dishing out of cards to Arsenal for being on the pitch.

    Moss was Corrupt as per his title. He ignored thre Red card for Mings which was similar to Allans foul. This is PGMOL the consistent cheats and selectively blind.

    The pushes on Laca, ESR, Partey and Xhaka went unseen and Cash got a schoolboy lecture despite being due full marks on a yellow card.

    This game is a proper example of corrupt officiating.

    We got the win despite Madeley being Villas best player. McManaman in the BT studio was disgraceful. His bias and stupidity is without equal.

  13. Good performance on 2 days rest. But the officiating was awful. Very inconsistent. Early on he let everything go by both sides. Then he did a Riley handing out cards with impunity. I agree with LE GALL about the abuse of Saka and, I might add, Smith Rowe. Wenger was a ‘foreigner’, all the players were ‘foreign’
    even if they weren’t. But if you wear an Arsenal shirt you’re shite, might as well be foreign and an object of ridicule.
    And I’d bet neither Saka or Rowe are from the North.

  14. Le Gall. You are entitled to your opinion but if you think Gabriel isn’t good then you are not a coach nor a judge of footballers. He was excellent yesterday and has been all season

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