London: Arsenal host Aston Villa after a tepid start to the season that’s been summed up by drawing the last two matches to sit 12th in the Premier League after eight games.
It took Alexandre Lacazette’s late equalizer to grab a point against Crystal Palace on Monday and the forward will now be pushing for a start against Villa tonight.
The 30-year-old Frenchman has played only 72 minutes in the league so far. There is no new contract on offer with his current deal expiring at the end of the season. Bukayo Saka could miss tonight’s game after being forced off at halftime on Monday after being kicked on the calf. Villa is in 13th place with 10 points.
Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta believes Lacazette’s attitude to playing will be unaffected by the doubts surrounding the France striker’s future at the Premier League club.
Lacazette is free to speak to foreign clubs from January, and although the Gunners have yet to make him a new offer, Arteta expects Lacazette to maintain his standards on behalf of the north London side.
“I had no doubts about that,” said Arteta.
“If I had, probably I would suggest to do something different with him in the summer, when a player could not find the motivation or if his interests are just with his financial future.
“It is not the case with Laca, and he has shown that since I have been here every single day. That’s why he is a really important player for us.”
Arsenal are also looking to tie players such as Saka down to better contracts, but Arteta said that did not mean Lacazette was about to leave the Emirates.
“No, I wouldn’t say that. Anything is possible,” the Spanish boss explained.
“It depends on a lot of things, it is not just a matter of being willing it is about being possible to fulfil that will and when, which is very important as well.”
Bailey, Traore back
Aston Villa wingers Leon Bailey and Bertrand Traore are both available for after recovering from thigh injuries. Matty Cash has overcome the dead leg that prompted his substitution during the defeat by Wolves last week.
Villa have won three successive Premier League games against Arsenal, as many as they had in their previous 36 attempts. It’s 59 years since Villa last earned four straight league victories in this fixture.
Arsenal have lost four of the 10 league meetings at the Emirates Stadium. The Gunners have only been defeated more often at the stadium by Manchester City (5) and Chelsea (6).