Aston Villa host Arsenal on Saturday in the Premier League, and Steven Gerrard has decisions to make on his starting line-up.
Villa will be looking to bounce back after defeat at West Ham Utd last time out, a result that ended an impressive run of three consecutive wins and clean sheets.
Having produced a hugely disappointing performance the last time these two sides met at the Emirates last year, it’s hoped we get a big response from the players as they’ll need to be at their best against Mikel Arteta’s side who continue to chase Champions League qualification this season.
After Gerrard delivered the latest team news in his press conference on Friday, the Villa boss will be forced into at least one change, while he has big decisions to make as to whether or not to largely stick with the same side that we’ve seen in recent weeks, or make tweaks to both the system and personnel.
Digne ruled out with injury, Konsa and Buendia pushing for return to Villa XI
As per Gerrard, Lucas Digne has been ruled out this weekend with a hamstring injury, although the Villa boss added that it isn’t too serious as the left-back is expected to be contention for France’s second game of the international break.
That is promising news as early indications were that Digne could be forced to miss a few weeks, and so it’s a boost to know that he’s likely going to be available before the end of the month.
For now, Ashley Young is expected to fill in for him in what is ultimately the only forced change for Villa.
The others remain up in the air depending on whether Gerrard decides to switch system, or perhaps just freshen things up by rotating. Given that the 4-3-1-2 formation didn’t particularly work well against West Ham, against a side like Arsenal who like to keep possession and will be a threat in the final third, this is a game where Villa are arguably better suited to be playing one up top.
That in turn could open the door for Emiliano Buendia to come back into the side in place of Danny Ings, with Philippe Coutinho helping to support frontman Ollie Watkins.
Jacob Ramsey and John McGinn are likely to keep their starting berths, and while this could be a game where we rue not having a physical, dominant defensive midfielder more than others, it remains to be seen if Douglas Luiz can provide protection in front of the backline effectively.
The other change that Gerrard may be tempted to make is in defence, with Ezri Konsa pushing to get back into the XI. Calum Chambers was brilliant against Southampton and Leeds, but there was a dip at West Ham and ultimately we can’t leave a player of Konsa’s quality and importance on the bench for too long.
Time will tell if this is what Gerrard goes with, but there is arguably plenty of sense in making these changes as we look to get the better of Arsenal.