Tactical Battles That Will Shape Aston Villa's Clash with Arsenal

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Tactical Battles That Will Shape Aston Villa's Clash with Arsenal
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Playing in the weekend's final match, Arsenal could find themselves third in the Premier League, with Chelsea winning on Saturday and Manchester City favourites to win at Newcastle on Sunday.

Arsene Wenger's men, who have led for most of the season, will go into the match at Villa Park expecting to come away with all three points, especially considering Villa's terrible form on home turf this season.

However, the Villans did spring a surprise on the opening day of the season when they travelled to the Emirates Stadium—beating the Gunners 3-1 in what was a comprehensive victory.

A repeat looks unlikely this time, though Arsenal will not take their opponents for granted, aiming to put on a good show in the Midlands and shoot back to the top of the table.

Here are the tactical battles that will shape Monday night's fixture.

 

Olivier Giroud v Ron Vlaar

With Theo Walcott and Nicklas Bendtner out through injury, Wenger is almost certain to start with Frenchman Olivier Giroud, despite the striker having been sidelined with an ankle problem and illness.

Giroud has taken to the Premier League like a duck to water and has been a real hit with Arsenal fans. Not only is the striker the league's fifth-highest scorer, but the speed and ease of which he has integrated into Wenger's team speaks volumes of his talent.

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Tall, strong, intelligent and with a turn of pace, Giroud has everything in his locker to give any world-class centre-half a torrid time—something of which he will look to do against Villa's Ron Vlaar.

The Dutch international missed last weekend's FA Cup third-round humbling at the hands of League One Sheffield United, but looks likely to play against Arsenal.

If Villa's captain is deemed fit enough to feature, then he is sure to be installed back into the heart of Villa's defence.

Vlaar's international experience when playing with The Netherlands national team has stood him in good stead when it comes to facing some of the Premier League's best strikers, of which Giroud certainly is.

The battle between the two will certainly be an interesting one and should go a long way to determining the outcome of the match.

 

Mesut Ozil v Fabian Delph

A lot was expected of Mesut Ozil following his £42.5 million move from Real Madrid in the summer, and the German international certainly hasn't let anyone down. The 25-year-old has been one of the league's best players this campaign and has proved he is worth every penny of that vast transfer fee.

Ozil jelled with his teammates at a speed which nobody expected and is often the fulcrum of their attack, linking midfield with attack thanks to his visual awareness and eye for a pass.

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The German is often given a free rein, sitting just in behind the strikers—a false No. 9, if you will—but is sure to be given a tough night by Villa's Fabian Delph.

Delph is the epitome of a box-to-box midfielder, but may be instructed to spend the 90 minutes stuck to Arsenal's No. 11.

The all-action Delph is better utilised when playing a more defensive role, but his tenacity and desire have seen him improve drastically when going forward and has become a real asset to the Villa team.

However, Arsenal's expansive, free-flowing style of football will, if Lambert's men aren't disciplined, cut Villa to shreds.

Delph will be in charge of keeping tabs on Ozil in the hope that he can neutralise the attacking midfielder's threat.

 

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain v Antonio Luna

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has featured just once for Arsenal this season—the defeat to Villa on the opening day of the season in which he was injured in a challenge with Antonio Luna.

In what was an innocuous-looking coming-together, Oxlade-Chamberlain seriously injured his knee and has subsequently missed over half of the season. But “the Ox” has stated his intention of making Roy Hodgson's England squad for the World Cup and will be keen to impress in the run-up to the business end of the season.

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Before his injury, the young winger had pretty much cemented his place in Arsenal's starting XI and looked to cap a great 2012/13 campaign with an equally impressive, if not improved, 2013/14.

Fit again, “the Ox” will face the man who injured him during that challenge and will look to get one over on the Spanish defender by helping Arsenal to a win over the Villans.

But, if Luna's form this season—his first in the Premier League—is anything to go by, then the Arsenal man is sure to be in for a good battle.

Luna has been one of Villa's stand-out players this season and marked a hugely impressive performance on his debut with Villa's third goal in the victory at the Emirates.

And, despite a few injuries at various points of the season, the 22-year-old has continued to improve as the campaign has wore on.

 

Christian Benteke v Per Mertesacker

Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker will be hoping that Christian Benteke's goal drought continues as the Gunners visit Villa Park.

The Belgian striker has now gone 12 games in all competitions without finding the net—his longest spell without a goal since his move to England in August 2012.

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Benteke looks severely short of confidence in front of goal—two glaring misses from six yards in the defeat to Sheffield United proof of this—but will look to get back to scoring ways against the Gunners.

Benteke scored twice in the 3-1 win over Wenger's men on the opening day of the season and gave Per Mertersacker trouble all afternoon.

Arsenal have had to deal with a number of injuries throughout this campaign, but Mertesacker has been one constant. The German international has helped the Gunners to the best defensive record in the league and will hope to stifle Benteke's threat as Arsenal look to return back to the top of the pile.

 

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