Arsenal will travel to Birmingham to face an in-form Aston Villa squad, as the Gunners look to break their streak of three consecutive Premier League draws.
Borussia Dortmund exposed some of the team’s defensive weaknesses in midweek, recording an easy 2-0 win in UEFA Champions league play, and the Gunners’ defensive injury woes won’t improve in time for Saturday’s fixture against the Claret and Blue.
The hosts have won three of their first four and sit a surprising second in the Premier League standings, and Paul Lambert will hope his squad can continue their excellent run of results.
Both clubs face several question marks regarding some of their top players in anticipation of Saturday’s match. According to Goal, JackWilshere‘s ankle injury might not be as severe as initially feared, and the England international could return in time for the fixture against Villa.
Lambert told the hosts’ official website editor Paul Brown he’s unsure whether Dutch international Ron Vlaar will feature in the heart of his defence, saying: “Ron is a doubt. We will have to wait on that calf to see how it heals. But Ron will be a doubt.”
Christian Benteke and Joe Cole are both recovering well, but per Lambert, they’re still a long way from returning to the pitch.
Mesut Ozil was once again deployed on the left wing against Dortmund, and while the German international clearly feels uncomfortable playing out wide, his lack of effort didn’t sit well with fans and pundits.
Speaking to Sky Sports (h/t to Goal’s James Goldman), compatriot Michael Ballack blames the Gunners:
Criticism on his performances continues to grow, and Ozil needs a strong performance against Villa to silence some of his detractors. IfWilshere is unable to play on Saturday, Arsene Wenger might elect to play the German down the centre, his preferred position.
But even if he doesn’t, Ozil needs to show the fans he’s at least willing to work, something he didn’t show in his lethargic display on Tuesday.
Aston Villa won’t take things easy on the Gunners, however. The hosts have enjoyed an excellent start to their 2014-15 campaign, and Lambert was rewarded with a new contract, per BBC’s Ben Smith:
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