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Arsenal Gunning To Reclaim Top Spot – Giroud Returns At Villa Park

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Aston Villa v Arsenal

Monday 13th January. 7.45pm live on Sky Sports 1

Arsenal will start Monday night’s match against Aston Villa in third place in the Premier League, but a victory at Villa Park will ensure that the north Londoners return to the summit of the table.

Few would have predicted that the Gunners would emerge as genuine title contenders following their shock 3-1 defeat at the hands of Villa at the Emirates on the opening day of the season, but they’ve been largely setting the pace in the English top-flight since the end of September.

The screw is starting to turn in the race for the Premier League crown, though. Following shaky starts to the season, Chelsea and Manchester City now look as though they mean business, while Liverpool cannot be dismissed lightly. There’s little margin for error for Arsene Wenger’s men now – every game is a veritable six-pointer.

Villa Park – a happy hunting ground for the Gunners

Subsequent to their reverse at this ground in December 1998, Arsenal have gone 14 games unbeaten at Villa Park, winning seven and drawing seven of the matches in question.

The Villains have bounced back from a run of four consecutive defeats by drawing with Swansea and beating Sunderland in their last two league fixtures.  However, goals are a real problem for Paul Lambert’s men at present – both scoring and conceding

Villa have scored just 19 times in 20 Premiership matches this term, half the tally achieved by Arsenal. The main problem for the midlands outfit in that respect is the form of key striker Christian Benteke. The Belgian international, who netted twice in the reverse fixture at the Emirates, has failed to find the back of the next in his last 11 league appearances.

Meanwhile, Aston Villa have kept clean sheets in just two of their last 21 home games in the English top-flight, a statistic which doesn’t augur well ahead of the visit of Arsenal, the Premier League’s most potent away side. The Gunners are a top-priced 8/13 with Paddy Power to once again leave Villa Park with three points in the satchel.

Ramsey and Walcott among Arsenal absentees, but Giroud set to return

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It was a bitter blow for Arsenal when Theo Walcott was ruled out for the rest of the season after picking up an injury during the FA Cup clash with Spurs. He is one of several absentees – Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mesut Ozil are others likely to miss out on Monday evening – but Olivier Giroud is expected to be amongst the visitors’ starting XI.

The Frenchman, who is likely to be supported in attack by midfielders Jack Wilshere, Santi Carzola and Tomas Rosicky, found the target as Arsenal beat Newcastle 1-0 at the end of December. The 27-year-old is 5/1 with Bet Victor to open the scoring against Villa, while Carzola is a tempting 19/2 with the same firm in the first goalscorer market.

Benteke is as short as 7s to score the first goal of the match, but Gabriel Agbonlahor, who has netted twice in his last two games, could be a better option at 11/1 with bet365 if you reckon Villa will first draw blood. However, the Villains have scored first in just five of their 20 leagues matches this term, whereas Arsenal have done so on 15 occasions.

Aston Villa v Arsenal betting tips

Despite the lengthy injury list, Arsenal should have little trouble in dispatching with a Villa side that is basically struggling for consistency in every area of the pitch.

The 19/2 on offer with Bet Victor about Santi Carzola in the first goalscorer betting is worth a second look if you’re seeking a value wager, but for those seeking a more solid bet the 13/10 available with 888sport about Arsenal/Arsenal in the half time/full time market is the way to go.

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