Good morning and welcome to another Sunday edition of Le Grove.
Watford’s ‘new manager kick’ didn’t last beyond a single game. Manchester City absolutely trounced our St. Albans neighbours with a performance so brutal, it should have had a 9pm watershed. 8-0 is not a Premier League score.
… but don’t worry, I wouldn’t dare draw parallels.
I’m actually weak from finding out my dad is a Bud Light drinker. He went out of his way to purchase them as well. How do you live life knowing that your dad is drinking soft beer like that behind your back? The alpha male theory is a fucking charade, I promise you.
Anyway, it’s all about Arsenal and what the manager can offer up to solve our very clear frailties today.
I would personally play Saka. He had an electric game in the week and looks more than ready to do some damage to lesser teams. His pace and directness could be a real asset at the moment. He’s ready, give him some game time in home games of this level.
Secondly, the theory that Emery plays Xhaka because he’s tall seems to hold weight. What do we think about the potential of moving Luiz forward when Holding returns to the first team? Couldn’t be any worse, could it?
Ideally, we’d have LT in the pivot tomorrow, but we’ll see.
Villa have the potential to bother us, they’ll work hard and menace us start to finish. That said, we have enough firepower to make a weak defence look silly. We need a performance, one has to drop soon, hopefully today is that moment.
I know I have been beating on Emery for a while, but I truly believe he can at least offer up a sustained run of wins. He’s average, he’s not bad. Today needs to be a stake in the ground. Let’s see a positive formation. Play our best attacking players, go into the game confidently, and try and impose some sort of vision on the day.
Huge game. Let’s see what he has for us.
How would I rate Villa’s start to the campaign? Above or below expectations?
It would be fair to say that overall our start to the season has proven somewhat frustrating. There have been plenty of positives, and most games have shown plenty of good things that can be built upon, but ultimately the cold hard truth is 4 points from 5 games isn’t the return we would have hoped for. It’s probably a start we could have expected as a newly promoted team, but there is certainly a feeling we should be at least a couple of points better off. There’s plenty of room for improvement but there’s also enough ability and desire in the squad to improve.
How would I gauge Dean Smith’s first year in charge? Are things moving in the right direction or is there any pressure forming?
Dean Smith has been in charge for almost exactly a year now, and it has been quite a ride so far, which gloriously reached its peak in the record-breaking 10 game winning streak which propelled us towards the playoffs and promotion in May. You’d be hard-pressed to find any fan who’d have a bad word to say about Smith and things are moving in the right direction. We do need a few more points on the board and to become a greater goal threat but overall, there’s a real togetherness and spirit right now which resonates from the pitch to the stands which instills confidence that we’ll get to where we want to go.
How do Villa strike a balance between their strengths and weaknesses?
For the most part, Villa are a decent unit and with all the new arrivals this summer, the gelling of the squad has been pretty seamless. We have a solid defensive foundation in fan favourites Tyrone Mings and Bjorn Engels in front of the experienced safe hands of Tom Heaton, we have a pretty dynamic midfield featuring last season’s key lynchpins of John McGinn and captain Jack Grealish, and there’s promise in big target man Wesley. Our weaknesses lie in our wide positions, particularly in attack and the consistency of performances in our wingers and their defensive tracking back. We also have a tendency at the moment to try and force things a little and give away possession cheaply. Nevertheless, the promise and the talent is there and as we develop and start to really click as a squad we should grow into a very difficult team to play against.
How do I think Villa will set up on Sunday? What are Arsenal’s weaknesses that I think Villa can exploit? And what are Villa’s weaknesses that I worry can be exploited?
As with most teams who have played Arsenal so far, Villa will have to find a way to get at the defence, Arsenal have shown a softness under pressure at the back and their commitment to almost suicidally playing out from the back is clearly an area to attack. But we’ll have to we wary of the lightning pace and lethal finishing of the front three. Stopping Aubameyang and Pépé will prove a huge task for any defence and our wingers will have to do a lot of work in defensive support too, which I fear may not always happen. We will also have to be better in possession when we do have it and seek to shut down Arsenal’s countering capabilities by avoiding sloppiness in possession.
How do I think the game will go and what are my predictions?
Our recent matches against Arsenal, particularly at the Emirates, have hardly been memorable and yet we still have the third best win rate of any current premier league team there, so it’s not hopeless. We’re a very different team (club even) to the sorry visitors who insipidly lost 4-0 on or way out of the division in 2016. Arsenal are obvious favourites and are pretty good at home so the realist in me expects a defeat, but the fan in me is hoping we can grab a point. So with my heart ruling over my mind, and seeking to be optimistic, I’ll go for a repeat of the first-ever match at the Emirates. 1-1.