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Arsenal host Aston Villa on Sunday in the Premier League, with the Gunners searching for three points to climb up from eighth into the European places.
Unai Emery’s side are without a victory in their past three league games, but a 3-0 win on Thursday at Eintracht Frankfurt in the UEFA Europa League displayed Arsenal’s goalscoring potential.
Villa have provided glimpses of quality in their opening five top-flight matches since promotion from the EFL Championship. However, they sit just one place above the relegation zone after collecting only one win.
Date: Sunday, Sept. 22
Time: 4:30 p.m. BST, 11:30 a.m. ET
TV: NBC Sports Gold (U.S.)
Stream: NBC Sports, fubo.tv
Odds: Arsenal 2-5, Villa 7-1, draw 77-20 (per Caesars)
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Arsenal’s summer transfer business might have had supporters quietly optimistic about the campaign ahead, but Emery’s men have stuttered in their opening games.
The £72 million capture of Lille’s Nicolas Pepe was a major coup for the Gunners, and the last-minute signing of Chelsea’s David Luiz gave Arsenal extra experience in defence. Exciting full-back Kieran Tierney also joined from Celtic, but the Scotland international has yet to make his debut because of injury.
The Emirates Stadium club has shown flashes of brilliance, but the inconsistencies of recent campaigns are still present. Pepe has yet to score after five Premier League appearances, and Luiz’s ability to frustrate due to his eccentric ways remain intact after his switch across the capital.
Arsenal have won just two of their five league games this season, and supporters will demand to see a winning mentality against Villa. The Gunners were 2-0 up away at Watford in their most recent league match, but two second-half goals gave the Hornets a share of the points, frustrating Emery on the touchline.
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Thankfully for Arsenal, Villa’s record on the road in the top flight has been poor for an extended period. Their most recent Premier League away win came against Bournemouth on the opening day of the 2015-16 season, 20 such games ago. In that period, they have earned three draws and suffered 17 losses.
Dean Smith’s appointment as manager in October last season saw Villa propel themselves from 14th in the Championship to play-off winners.
According to BBC Sport, Smith said his men can draw inspiration from Norwich City after the promoted team’s recent 3-2 win over champions Manchester City:
“Any team is beatable, we saw that with Norwich’s result against Manchester City.
“When you go head-to-head against anybody you’ve got to have that belief but we know how tough it is at the Emirates.
“We’ve got great belief in what our players are about and we saw with that trip to Tottenham that we can go toe-to-toe with these teams.”
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Villa have not looked out of their depth back in the Premier League, but Smith will know there’s little pressure to win points against any of the top-flight giants. The Gunners put three goals past Frankfurt on Thursday, but the Bundesliga side had 24 attempts on goal, highlighting Arsenal’s defensive frailties.
It’s likely Villa will get chances to find the back of the net during their visit to the capital, but Arsenal will believe they can outscore their opponents in their quest for a top-four finish.
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