Aston Villa looks to avoid a seriously dangerous situation as they travel to the Emirates sitting just two points above the relegation zone, with kickoff at 8:30am ET live on NBCSN or live online at NBC Sports Live Extra.
They couldn’t be visiting Arsenal at a worse time, with the Gunners beginning to hit their stride through January, with four wins in their last six and three in a row.
Unfortunately, the Gunners will be without Alexis Sanchez, who misses out with a hamstring strain. It’s a huge miss, as Sanchez himself has outscored Aston Villa this season, with 12 goals to his name while Paul Lambert’s side has netted just 11 times all season long. There’s no respite for Villa though, as in Sanchez’s place comes World Cup champion Mesut Ozil, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain makes way for Theo Walcott as well.
Meanwhile, new signing – defender Gabriel Paulista – is on the bench while veterans Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny get the starts in the middle of defense. Goalkeeper David Ospina gets his third start in a row for benched Wojciech Szczesny, with Arsene Wenger saying the pair are in “a fight” for the starting spot.
For Aston Villa, new signing Scott Sinclair must wait for his first start at the club, as the loanee looks to up his stock at parent club Manchester City. Fabian Delph starts again following his new contract, which created much fanfare at Villa Park.
The visitors will need to watch out the most just after the half-hour mark. In one of the funkier stats trademarking this fixture, Arsenal has scored five goals against Villa across their last two meetings, all of them coming between the 32nd and 36th minutes.
Arsenal: Ospina; Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Ramsey, Walcott, Cazorla, Ozil; Giroud.
Subs: Szczesny, Gibbs, Gabriel, Chambers, Flamini, Rosicky, Akpom
Aston Villa: Guzan, Hutton, Okore, Clark, Richardson, Sanchez, Delph, Cleverley, Weimann, Gil, Benteke.
Subs: Given, Baker, Bacuna, Sinclair, Agbonlahor, Westwood, Cissokho.