Winners of four-straight matches across all competitions, Arsenal look to make it five in a row Sunday when they host Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium. The Gunners are returning to Premier League play after squeaking by Brighton 3-2 last Sunday in the FA Cup.
Arsenal appear to be hitting their stride and will be attempting to earn their longest Premier League winning streak of the year by making it a three-straight victories. Their last league match was an impressive 2-0 win over Manchester City. Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud each scored to help Arsenal gain one of their most impressive road wins in quite some time.
Wenger is expected to rely on Cazorla as his key playmaker, with Alexis Sanchez expected to miss the match. Sanchez has scored 12 goals and assisted on seven more in 21 Premier League matches.
“It’s unlikely that I will risk [Sanchez] on Sunday,” manager Arsene Wenger said at a pre-match press conference. “But, we’ll see.”
With forward Danny Welbeck still out as well, Wenger will likely rely on Giroud and Cazorla as the main scoring threats. Cazorla has scored five goals and assisted on four others in 21 Premier League matches. Giroud, scorer of six Premier League goals, should feature prominently in the Gunners' attack.
Sunday could be the debut of newly signed defender Gabriel Paulista. The Brazilian center back’s transfer was completed this week and Wenger indicated there's a chance the former Villarreal stalwart will be in the starting 11 against Villa.
“He’s ready to go,” Wenger said. “He will be in the squad certainly. He started his training yesterday and he looks fit.”
Aston Villa have been in dismal form lately, with their last Premier League win coming on Dec. 7 in a 2-1 victory over Leicester City. Villa have struggled to score and manager Paul Lambert may need a strong defensive effort to gain a draw. Villa are barely above the relegation zone, and have managed to score just 11 goals in Premier League play.
However, Aston Villa might be feeling some confidence after advancing in the FA Cup. The Villans held off Bournemouth, 2-1, on Jan. 25 to reach the fifth round. In their last Premier League meeting at the Emirates, Aston Villa defeated Arsenal in the 2013-2014 opening day, 3-1.
Aston Villa also received reinforcements this week. Lambert will have Scott Sinclair available, as the 25-year-old winger joined Villa on loan from Manchester City. Sinclair, who struggled to see time under Manuel Pellegrini, stated that he has his "best years ahead of him" and Lambert claims Sinclair has "great unfulfilled potential."
Start Time: Sunday, 7:30 a.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC Sports
Live Online Stream: A live steam is available at NBC Live Extra here.
Prediction: Arsenal over Aston Villa, 2-0