- Aston Villa vs Arsenal on BT Sport
- Watkins opens scoring for Villa in second minute
- Ryan and Gabriel replace suspended Leno and David Luiz for Arsenal
- Nakamba starts in Villa midfield; Douglas Luiz drops to bench
14 mins Aston Villa 1-0 Arsenal
Jack Grealish whips in a corner but can’t beat the first man and Arsenal comfortably clear their lines.
13 mins Aston Villa 1-0 Arsenal
Arsenal have had 74 per cent of the possession at the start of this match but so far they haven’t looked threatening with it.
12 mins Aston Villa 1-0 Arsenal
The visitors win a free-kick midway through the Villa half and switch play to the right flank before Bellerin chips into the box. Gabriel wins the header but Villa are able to clear.
10 mins Aston Villa 1-0 Arsenal
To answer that question about concussion subs… not yet. Both players are back on the pitch and Arsenal are passing the ball around fairly harmlessly at the back.
8 mins Aston Villa 1-0 Arsenal
Lacazette and Konsa are both down after a clash of heads. Could we see the Premier League’s first concussion substitute? The new rule comes into force for the first time today.
7 mins Aston Villa 1-0 Arsenal
Nice pressing from Villa in midfield but Arsenal play out of the danger and Pepe whips a dangerous ball in but Villa head clear
5 mins Aston Villa 1-0 Arsenal
Nice move from Arsenal, with Alex Lacazette sweeping the ball into the Villa box, but some stout defending sees the ball shepherded out for a goal kick.
GOAL – 2 mins Aston Villa 1-0 Arsenal
The ball drops to Bertrand Traore on the edge of the Arsenal box, he nips past Gabriel, pokes it into the box and Ollie Watkins sweeps home. What a start for the home side!
Villa running out of gas?
This is worth a read before kick-off Villa fans: Daniel Zeqiri took a deep dive into your pressing stats and (lack of) rotation ahead of today’s game
The BT Sport lads have also been praising the form of Emi Martinez, who starts in the Villa goal against his former side today:
In praise of Saka
Rio Ferdinand is waxing lyrical about Bukayo Saka’s quality on BT Sport, highlighting the 19-year-old’s tactical flexibility and composed decision-making.
Ryan preferred to Runarsson
Mikel Arteta has been forced to change his goalkeeper from midweek as Bernd Leno is suspended for today’s game. He has chosen to give Mat Ryan, who is on loan from Brighton, the nod over Runar Alex Runarsson. Gabriel starts in the heart of Arsenal’s defence, replacing David Luiz – who is also suspended after he was sent off at Molineux.
Nakamba returns for Villa
Dean Smith has only made a single change to his starting XI from Villa’s loss to West Ham, with Marvelous Nakamba taking Douglas Luiz’s place in midfield. New boy Morgan Sanson, a late transfer window singing from Marseille, is on the bench.
Smith expects improved Arsenal showing
In his pre-match press conference Dean Smith said Arsenal have improved since Villa’s 3-0 rout at the Emirates in November. He highlighted the recent performances of Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe and said the pair have been playing with “fluidity and freedom”.
Aston Villa vs Arsenal
Hello and welcome to our live blog for this lunchtime clash at Villa Park between two sides who will both be desperate to get back on track after disappointing losses in midweek.
Villa fell to a 3-1 home defeat to West Ham and manager Dean Smith said afterwards that he felt his side “looked a little lethargic”. Telegraph Sport’s Daniel Zeqiri crunched the numbers after the game and found Villa have made the fewest changes to their starting XI this season of any team in the top flight; so that might have something to do with them looking a bit off the pace.
Since their enforced mid-season Covid hiatus Villa have dropped off from the dynamic form they showed earlier in the campaign, including that unforgettable 7-2 thrashing of champions Liverpool – losing against West Ham and Burnley and scrapping past a depleted Southampton.
Arsenal are returning to the Midlands for the second time in five days and Mikel Arteta will be hoping for a response to his side’s chastening loss to Wolverhampton Wanderers. They finished that game with nine men after red cards to David Luiz and Bernd Leno saw them squander an early lead. Luiz and Leno are both subsequently suspended for today’s fixture.
The 2-1 defeat was Arsenal’s first loss in eight Premier League matches and meant they missed the chance to move into sixth place. They currently sit a single point behind Villa but Smith’s men have two games in hand.
When these two sides met at the Emirates in November, Villa romped to a 3-0 win with Ollie Watkins at the double and Jack Grealish irrepressible.
Villa’s two young English talents are sure to be on show again this afternoon and likely to be opposed by Arsenal’s blossoming homegrown core led by Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe. We’ll have team news shortly and the match kicks off at 12.30.