After the bitter disappointment of last weekend’s loss Dean Smith spoke to the press, talking about the team’s latest injury news, the Wolves game, and his three-year anniversary at the club.
Smith celebrated the return of Bertrand Traore and Leon Bailey to the first team squad but gave no hints as to whether either would be fit enough to start.
If in contention, a move to a 4-3-3 could be on the cards, with Bailey coming straight into the side and Watkins slotting out wide, with Ings holding his position centrally.
A front three of Ings, Watkins and Bailey could cause Arsenal a host of problems, both on the ball and without it.
Ings and Watkins average 18 and 14 pressure per 90 minutes this season, so putting this young and inexperienced Arsenal back four under pressure from the outset could be a route to success.
Watkins scored three against Arsenal last season and the goal in our 1-0 victory at Villa Park last season is a prime example of how we can target the Arsenal back four.
Five or Four at the Back?
Although a back five seems a viable option when travelling away from home to the Emirates, Villa could be left vulnerable if our wing backs were to push too high like they did against Spurs.
In the match two weeks ago, Son found pockets of space in between Matty Cash and Ezri Konsa with ease, leaving us vulnerable to the counterattack throughout.
Although Cash (who Smith confirmed is back in training) created chances for Villa, the space that he left in behind for the superb Son was a worry.
Taking on an Arsenal side with Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe who both play in a similar manner to Son, Villa must be wary of leaving themselves vulnerable in transition.
A back four on the other hand would have Targett and Cash sit back, keep tabs on Arsenal’s creative players, while the side would still offer a threat offensively.
On reflection, Smith seemed to take the positives from the 3-2 loss last weekend during the press conference.
Although Villa collapsed in the final quarter of the match conceding three goals from set-pieces late on, Smith still believed the performance wasn’t as bad as it first looked and was encouraged by the first 70 minutes of the match in which Villa were dominant.
Smith reiterated his side won the first contact on each occasion before the first two goals, but just switched off in the second phase of attack.
The sloppy nature of these goals was yet more frustrating to Smith as a win would have taken Villa a point off the European places.
Seemingly Smith believed the result did not reflect the true nature of the game.
Third Anniversary as Boss
Although the week was marred with disappointment after the derby loss against Wolves, Smith’s three years at the club has been remarkable.
A promotion, a last gasp escape from relegation and the team’s mid-table finish last season show how Smith has taken this side to new heights year after year.
Smith himself highlighted that the quality of the squad was one that should be competing with any in the league.
Quality players such as Ings, Bailey and Martinez weren’t even in the thinking when Smith arrived at the club.
Just think, with three more years of Smith, where could we be?