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Premier League Preview: Aston Villa vs. Arsenal

Arsenal v Aston Villa - Premier League

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 17: Olivier Giroud of Arsenal celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Aston Villa at Emirates Stadium on August 17, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

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  • Arsenal are unbeaten in their last 15 Premier League visits to Villa Park, winning eight and drawing seven.
  • Villa have made their best start to a season since 1998-99, when they also had 10 points after four games.
  • Villa have more points (10) than shots on target this season (six). They have had fewer shots on target than any other side in the division. (BBC Sport)

On Saturday, around 9:45 am ET, an oddly interesting matchup will occur at the Villa Park when high-flying Aston Villa faces Arsenal, who haven’t enjoyed the best fortune recently. The game will be televised on NBCSN.

Paul Lambert’s side has found itself as one of the surprise teams in the early Premier League season, alongside Swansea City, both squads occupying the second and third place spots in the table.

Villa is coming off an noteworthy 1-0 victory over Liverpool last week, and have notched wins against weaker opponents, Hull City and Stoke City. Austrian forward Andreas Weimann has spearheaded the offensive efforts of his team, leading the team with two goals and also notching an assist. Philippe Senderos has barely shown his deficiencies, as the center back has aided the Lions to measure three clean sheets in their opening four games.

Arsenal, though, didn’t expect the slow beginning to their 2014-15 BPL campaign, having failed to win in their last four league games to stand at seventh place in the table.

The squad’s goal is to make a championship run, and they will look to get back on that track after a 2-0 Champions League defeat to Borussia Dortmund at Signal Iduna Park this past Tuesday. Mesut Ozil, one of the most tactically-gifted footballers in the world, hasn’t played his finest recently, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Santi Carzola are pushing hard to seize playing time. Luckily, the Gunners big signing of the summer, former FC Barcelona forward Alexis Sanchez, has stepped up and scored three goals this season. He’s created the most scoring chances on the team as well.

Match Absences: Villa captain Ron Vlaar doesn’t seem in position to take the pitch on Saturday, since he’s still battling the calf injury that kept him sidelined v. Liverpool last week. Striker Libor Kozak is recovering from a broken leg, while Christian Benteke, a vital piece to the Villa, has come back to training, eyeing a return in the near future.

Arsenal will likely welcome back Calum Chambers and Mathieu Flamini, with Jack Wilshere the questionable man to play following an ankle knock against Dortmund. Mathieu Debuchy (ankle), Olivier Giroud (foot), Serge Gnabry, Theo Walcott (knees), Nacho Monreal (back) and Yaya Sanogo (hamstring) are all listed as “out” for the Gunners.

What they’re saying:

Villa boss Paul Lambert on Philippe Senderos (Lichfield Mercury):He’s always been a steady centre half and I liked him at Fulham last season. I always thought he was consistent. Philippe is a great professional and a top, top pro who does everything right. He’s got a pedigree behind him and has played at three World Cups, played for Arsenal, Milan and Valencia. Coming here I knew he could handle it. We got [Senderos] on a free and just look at his performances for us.”

Gunners midfielder Miguel Arteta on Dortmund loss (The Guardian): “We encouraged them by giving the ball away so many times in very difficult positions when the team was open. I am very disappointed because we knew their strengths, what we had to avoid and what we did was encourage them to play the way they wanted. They broke on us five or six times in the first 10 minutes when we gave the ball away. It’s not good enough. The accuracy when we were taking the ball and trying to play was missing.”

Prediction: Arsenal is the more talented team in this match, plain and simple. But there’s been something about Aston Villa in these opening weeks of the Premier League, so it’s difficult to assume that Wenger will achieve an easy three points. This one has a strong possibility of the victor winning by a one-goal difference.