18 September 2014 17:46
A buoyant Aston Villa can make a bad week worse for Arsenal with victory in Saturday’s Premier League clash at Villa Park.
The two have endured contrasting fortunes in recent weeks, with Villa revelling in their excellent early-season form that has seen them rise to second while Arsenal have won just one of their last six games in all competitions.
Villa’s impressive 1-0 triumph over Liverpool at Anfield last weekend was followed by Wednesday’s news that manager Paul Lambert had agreed a new contract.
Under the Scot, Villa are unbeaten in the league this term and take on an Arsenal side who were comprehensively beaten by Lambert’s former club Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday.
Arsene Wenger’s charges were regularly overrun at Signal Iduna Park and will be braced for a stern test from a Villa side who sit second in the top flight.
The hosts may have struggled for goals in the absence of injured strike duo Christian Benteke and Libor Kozak, but have conceded just once in the league this season and will be boosted by the Belgium international’s recent return to training.
Benteke has 29 goals in 60 Premier League games for the club, but has not played for Villa since April after suffering a torn Achilles.
While the imposing forward is not yet ready to return to first-team action, Lambert’s men go into the fixture full of confidence after the former Scotland international’s future was secured.
“The chairman came to me about a month ago and asked what I was thinking. He had his views and I had mine,” Lambert explained on Thursday.
“I love being here. It’s a fantastic club. I have a great working relationship with the chairman. He asked my feelings and I was delighted. Let’s try and kick on from where we have started.”
Like Villa, Arsenal are also unbeaten in the league this term, although questions marks still hang over Wenger’s side, having conceded a late equaliser to Manchester City last Saturday before being taken apart at times by Jurgen Klopp’s men.
A disjointed attacking display in which Mesut Ozil was peripheral and Danny Welbeck profligate may see Wenger reshuffle his pack on Saturday, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s introduction one of the rare bright spots in Dortmund.
The England international has started just twice in all competitions this term and is eager to help his team-mates.
“I feel good in myself and when I get told to play I will be chomping at the bit to help the team,” he said.
“It will need all of us to pull our weight to start games or come off the bench. We have to be 100 per cent focused for when our chances come.
“We have a lot of players capable of [raising the tempo]. Once everyone fires on all cylinders we can get the results we are looking for.”
Jack Wilshere is expected to recover from a twisted ankle sustained on Tuesday, while Lambert has doubts over the fitness of defender Ron Vlaar (calf).